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20 Nov

Paradigm Shift

Over the past two decades, there has been a quiet revolution in the fields of psychology and neuroscience challenging two fundamental assumptions. The first is that humans are hardwired to experience emotions and that emotions happen automatically. Unless you’re a saint, if you’ve been honked at by a rude driver, you will have seen this firsthand. You will have experienced reacting in a way that feels completely automatic (and likely regrettable). This is certainly what seems to be happening. The proximity between stimulus (the honk) and reaction (anger) is so close that your perception was that you had no choice but to react in a certain way. To make sense of this experience, you likely have attributed this phenomenon to the myth that humans are emotion- ally hardwired.

This is understandable. Early humans who were able to band together effectively increased their likelihood of survival. Evolution favored traits that let people be accepted by and remain part of the clan. In essence, get- ting excluded from the tribe was an almost certain death sentence. As a result, your brain has evolved to recognize threats to your social status and to respond in ways that protect you from risk to your psychological safety. In fact, brain scans show that when you feel excluded or rejected, the part of your brain associated with physical pain—the anterior cingulate cortex—lights up. Hence, as we saw in chapter one, when someone looks at you a certain way or makes a disparaging remark, your amygdala is triggered and institutes a fight/flight/freeze response, releasing the hormone epinephrine and instigating a series of physiological responses. This reaction, known as the amygdala hijack, in turn impairs your most sophisticated mental capabilities—your ability to think rationally, to be creative, to problem solve, to exercise self-control. What started out as an essential survival adaptation—to keep you safe from physical harm or to keep you included in the tribe—has become a major limitation to effectiveness in modern-day life.

So while there may be something to the notion of hardwiring, the truth is far more nuanced and interesting. Your brain is a prediction machine, continuously comparing new stimuli to past experience and making guesses about what action your body should take based

on those comparisons. Beginning in early infancy, your brain begins to construct rules or beliefs for each cate- gory of experience, and they get embedded in your pro- gram. Over time, these rules solidify, and you think it is just the way things are—the way you are wired. Driver honking at you equals someone treating you unfairly, which means you must be angry.

One of the leading researchers in this area, Lisa Feldman Barrett, has arrived at a profound and revolutionary conclusion challenging the myth that humans are hard- wired:

Our emotions aren’t built-in, waiting to be revealed. They are made. By us. We don’t recognize emotions or identify emotions: we construct our own emotional experiences, and our perceptions of others’ emotions, on the spot, as needed, through a complex interplay of systems. Human beings are not at the mercy of mythical emotion circuits buried deep within animalistic parts of our highly evolved brain: we are architects of our own experience.8

The second fundamental assumption being challenged is the view that what you perceive through your senses—primarily sight and sound—dictates the way you feel. In reality, it is mostly the other way around. We touched on this notion in chapter one with the introduction of polyvagal theory—the idea that your central nervous system is constantly scanning your internal state to detect physiological markers that suggest potential threats to your social safety. You continuously experience countless sensations in your body—the result of your glucose levels, breathing rate, lack of sleep, etc. Your brain’s process of registering and integrating changes in

these sensations is known as interoception. Interoception influences what external sensory input you pay attention to. If sleep-deprived and hungry, you will experience the same situation completely differently than you would if well-rested and fed. Again, Barrett does a wonderful job of summarizing this for us:

You construct the environment in which you live. You might think about your environment as existing in the outside world, separate from yourself, but that’s a myth. You (and other creatures) do not simply find yourself in an environment and either adapt or die. You construct your environment—your reality—by virtue of what sensory input from the physical environment your brain selects; it admits some as information and ignores some as noise. And this selection is intimately linked to interoception.9

The implications of this paradigm shift in under- standing human behavior are massive. The sum of your genetics, childhood experiences, culture, neurophysiology (including the anatomy of your brain and, more importantly, your physiological state) all help shape your program and, in turn, how you behave. Your brain uses the rules of your program to make predictions about what actions are most appropriate for any given stimulus. This understanding is revolutionary, and it’s good news. While it is certainly understandable to feel as if certain behaviors are automatic, you nevertheless have the capacity to control every response to every situation. The question now becomes what you can do to master your code (including your physiology) so that the actions you take are more consistent with the choices you would like to make. Since you are truly the architect and author of your experience, you have the possibility (and dare I say responsibility) to create the conditions that will allow you to construct a different way of perceiving and reacting to your circum- stances. The bad news? No more excuses!

 

Darren Gold is a Managing Partner at The Trium Group, where he advises and coaches CEOs and leadership teams at many of the world’s most innovative companies, including Roche, Dropbox, Lululemon, Sephora, Cisco, eBay, Activision, and Warner Bros. He is the author of the new book Master Your Code: The Art, Wisdom, and Science of Leading an Extraordinary LifeLearn more at www.darrenjgold.com.

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19 Nov

Authenticity

BOOKcover-LiveTrue-hiResCHAPTER 21: Authenticity

But above all, in order to be, never try to seem.

—Albert Camus

 

This above all:

To thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

—Shakespeare

 

Who are you really, if not who you really are? That may sound like some kind of Zen koan, which is a paradox, or a puzzle for Zen Buddhist monks to meditate on to gain enlightenment. Perhaps we won’t reach enlightenment by contemplating that question, but we can certainly find out who we are by knowing who we’re not. If we ask ourselves, “Who am I?” we will automatically answer with our name, or what it is we do for a living, our role, or our persona, such as “I’m a mother,” “I’m a doctor,” “I’m an actor,” “I’m a carpenter,” or even, “I’m an addict.” We may be any one of those things, or a combination of them. But unless we know who we are other than just our “identity,” or what we do, we might not know whether we’re

being true to ourselves, or authentic in whatever identity we’ve taken on. Maybe somewhere in your role as a mother, you’re conflicted about having given up a career to be a parent, or maybe torn about working and leaving your children at home or daycare. Or, maybe if you were/are an addict, you were once on top of the world but lost confidence in yourself at one point in your life, and couldn’t handle failure so you numbed yourself with drugs or alcohol. Or maybe you became a doctor because it was expected of you to be one since you come from generations of physicians, as I spoke about in the previous chapter on honesty. Who we are might not be what we wanted, or intended to be at all, but we’ve been that person for so long, who would we be otherwise? Some people just fall into being who they are, or inherit being who they are, or are told to be who they are. Others knew who they wanted to be when

they spoke their first words. But whether you announced your identity at your first dance recital, or you smiled compliantly when your father announced at your Bar Mitzvah that you were going to be a lawyer just like him, somewhere on the “Who am I?” train, you woke up and realized that you got on the wrong one, became inauthentic to yourself, and don’t know how that happened. There’s a great song by The Talking Heads, called “Once in a Lifetime,” which really sums it up:

 

And you may find yourself

Living in a shotgun shack

And you may find yourself

In another part of the world

And you may find yourself

Behind the wheel of a large automobile

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house

With a beautiful wife

And you may ask yourself, well

How did I get here?

 

It’s very conceivable that you can wake up one day and ask yourself, “How did I get here?” A good way to avoid that from happening is to ask yourself, “Who am I?” long before

you end up somewhere you really don’t want to be, or flummoxed by how the hell you let yourself get there. Mindfulness helps us not forget who we are. It keeps us present and aware, and if, or when we might feel an impulse to be inauthentic, it reminds us immediately that falseness of any kind feels wrong with every fiber of our being. When we’re mindful, we have heightened awareness, and with heightened awareness, it’s hard to be dishonest with ourselves. It’s like having an inner lie detector, as I’ve spoken of, or truth barometer that goes off inside us, and makes it almost impossible not to pay attention to it. Even if someone is suggesting what we should do, or who we should be, as I mentioned, we get a signal loud and clear that no one can decide who we are, and only we can determine our authenticity.  But whether you decided who your authentic self was long ago, somewhere on the life path you can either forget it, doubt it, turn away from it, give it away, or even make a decision that you dislike or hate who you really are, and deny ever being that person. It’s like an identity swap, only instead of taking on a role that isn’t you because you felt you had to, you gave your authentic self away gladly, and after living so long as someone you’re not, you’re now desperately looking for who you are, like a mother trying to find the baby she gave up for adoption. The good news is you can always find that person you once were, and when

you become reunited with your authentic self, it can be the greatest and most freeing day of your life. it’s not easy living a life trapped in inauthenticity, and it takes work to pretend to be someone we’re not. It can also be very painful to be seen, liked, or even loved for a false self, and terrifying that if, or when you’re found out that you’ve lived dishonestly, not only can you be met with tremendous anger and resentment, but you can also be blamed or accused for harming others in some type of way, be it emotionally or psychologically.

Ora Nadrich is founder and president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking and author of Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity. A certified life coach and mindfulness teacher, she specializes in transformational thinking, self-discovery, and mentoring new coaches as they develop their careers. Learn more at theiftt.org and OraNadrich.com.

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21 Oct

“You Are What You Read”

An excerpt by Jodie Jackson from her book, “You Are What You Read”.

In the early stages of my research into the psychological impact of the news, I went to a constructive journalism workshop. At the beginning, the course director asked all the journalists in attendance why they had decided on their chosen career.

My scepticism about the creators of the news was suspended as I heard the participants’ answers: to make the world a better place, to hold power to account, to inspire, to educate, to give a voice to the voiceless, to expose wrongdoing, to stimulate debate, to challenge the status quo. I was in admiration of their intentions.

I later found that these journalists’ answers were incredibly common through research that showed that the journalists interviewed shared a common characteristic: the desire to contribute to the improvement of the human condition and make the world a better place. They then went on to say that they achieved this by reporting suffering as a way to counteract ignorance and stimulate empathy. This strategy can be very effective. But while it’s true that the news of others’ suffering can conjure empathetic concern and can lead to altruistic behaviour, which may reduce that suffering, it can also lead to personal distress. And those who experience such distress will not be concerned with the needs of others. Instead they will seek to reduce their own suffering by withdrawing or avoiding the news.

The initial buzz that had been created by these noble and inspired answers was quickly dulled as I began researching how people feel when they watch or read the news. Their dispirited answers included comments like depressed, paranoid, hopeless, insignificant and scared about our future.

The news is supposed to empower people by enlightening them with information that they otherwise may not have known. It should also help them zoom out of their personal lives and allow them to feel connected to the world around them. But it seems that when some people lift their head above their personal horizon, they immediately want to retreat to the safety of their own surroundings. They may even decide to put their head in the sand and ignore the wider world for the sake of their sanity; deciding to remain unaware of the daily disasters and instead choose the more comforting thought that ‘ignorance is bliss’.

People that avoid the news are often judged because of the enormous social pressure to be well informed. If you don’t know the detail of global policies, domestic issues and the latest corruption, you are often tarnished with the disapproving titles of ill-educated, naïve, lazy, self-involved or shallow. However, having spoken to some wildly intelligent, caring, benevolent and creative individuals who have chosen not to expose themselves to the news regularly, I can say that this is not always the case.

Although it is common for journalists to want to believe the stories they tell make the world a better place, it is more difficult to digest the idea that the news they are creating can actually cause harm. But it is time we publicly acknowledge that good intentions can have unintended consequences, and the stories we are told about in the news do not always have the positive impact that was intended by their writers.

We know that the news predominantly reports the problems of the world, from systemic social issues of poverty and inequality to individual petty crime, with very little to comfort the reader. We accept that these are the types of stories we expect to hear from the news. This expectation has become so entrenched in the news industry that a television news programme can have ‘more images of violence, suffering and death in a half hour than most people would normally view in a lifetime’.

So what effect does all this bad news have on us?

It is important that we ask this because the subtle potency of the news appears largely unquestioned by the very consumers who are affected by its content. Instead of questioning it, many routinely defend its position. But with the average American spending seventy minutes a day absorbing news content, it is important that we ask what are the psychological effects that the news has on us. It is time we, the consumers, turn the investigative lens on the news industry to expose the effects of the negativity bias on our mental health, the health of our democracy and our society. Once people begin to ask questions, it may be that people do not so quickly defend the incessant negativity of the news.

 

Jodie Jackson is an author, researcher and campaigner. She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of East London (UK) where she investigated the psychological impact of the news. As she discovered evidence of the beneficial effects of solutions-focused news on our wellbeing, she grew convinced of the need to spread consumer awareness. She is a regular speaker at media conferences and universities. Her new book is You Are What You Read: Why Changing Your Media Diet Can Change the World(Unbound, September 3, 2019). See more at www.jodiejackson.com, and find her on twitter at @jacksonjodie21

 

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15 Oct

AVOIDING YOUR BEST WORK LEADS TO CREATIVE CONSTIPATION

The following is a modified excerpt from Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done.

***

There’s a big difference between what your best work and all the other work you do. Doing your best work is fulfilling while you’re doing it and also creates a bridges the gap between the life you live today and the life your soul yearns to be in. And your best work isn’t just about work you get paid for — it could be playing in your hobby band, raising your kids, being the church secretary, or community volunteer projects.

Your best work is always going to be challenging because it’s the work that matters to you. And because it matters to you, you’re going to be thrashing — that is flailing, having mini identity crises, “researching”, and all the other kinds of meta-work that doesn’t actually push the work forward — along the way. Best work is starting to look suspiciously like hard work, and our natural reaction is to avoid doing hard work and to instead find something easier to do.

When it comes to your best work, not doing it comes with two major costs: (1) you won’t be able to thrive, and (2) you’ll be stricken with creative constipation. Since I’ve already discussed the link between thriving and your best work, let’s talk about creative constipation, or the pain of not doing your best work.

Creative constipation is exactly what it sounds like. We take in ideas and inspiration that get converted into aspirations, goals, and projects, and at a certain point, if we’re not pushing them out in the form of finished projects, they start to back up on us.

And like physical constipation, at a certain point, we get toxic. We don’t want to take in any more ideas. We don’t want to do any more projects. We don’t want to set any more goals or plans. We’re full and fed up.

That inner toxicity becomes the broth that flavors all our stories about ourselves and the world; our head trash gets more pronounced and intense, and what we see in the world goes from bright to dark. Creative constipation leads to behaviors in which we lash out at the world—and sometimes even more intensely at ourselves. We become resentful of others—even people we love—who are doing their best work.

Our ability to feel positive emotional peaks is diminished at the same time that our ability to feel negative emotional troughs is amplified. You’ve no doubt encountered the tortured, depressed soul who’s creatively constipated—and you may have been there yourself.

There’s a reason that nearly every spiritual tradition links creativity and destruction: the same energy that fuels creation also fuels destruction. The Jewish, Christian, and Muslim God creates and destroys; “beating swords into plowshares” works equally in reverse. The Hindu god Shiva is seen as

a destroyer who makes way for creativity. Creativity and destruction are seen as a continual loop in the Taoist concept of yin and yang.

Spiritual insights such as these also show up in our everyday lives. Think about how often you’ve engaged in retail therapy—and thus destroyed your time and resources—because you’re unsatisfied about something in your life. Think about how often you’ve indulged in emotional eating because you’re not creating the change you want to see in your life. Think about how many people blow up their lives in a midlife crisis because the career and life they’ve made haven’t satisfied their deep needs.

Now think about the people you know or have read about who are doing their best work. Notice how they’re healthier, happier, (usually) more financially comfortable, and in good relationships with others? Doing their best work creates meaning for them at the same time that it cocreates who they want to be in the world. And these folks know that doing their work in the world is the wheel of change, meaning, and growth, more so than merely being stuck in their heads.

So at both deep and practical levels, we can choose to channel our energy to do our best work and thrive, or we can choose to leave it unharnessed to gradually destroy ourselves, our relationships, our resources, and the world around us.

Better to do the hard work of creation than the hard work of repairing the destruction we’ve wrought.

 

Charlie Gilkey is an author, entrepreneur, philosopher, Army veteran, and renowned productivity expert. Founder of Productive Flourishing, Gilkey helps professional creatives, leaders, and changemakers take meaningful action on work that matters. His new book is Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done. Learn more at productiveflourishing.com.

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15 Oct

Are You at Risk for Depression?

An excerpt from Beneath the Surface by Kristi Hugstad

Ever since author Kristi Hugstad’s husband, after years of struggling with clinical depression, completed suicide in 2012 by running in front of a train, she has dedicated her life to helping to abolish the stigma of mental illness and suicide.

 

That mission is what inspired her to write Beneath the Surface: A Teen’s Guide to Reaching Out When You or Your Friend Is in Crisis, which speaks candidly to today’s youth — and the parents, teachers, and coaches who love them — about the anxiety, depression, and suicide attempts that far too often accompany the unique challenges that face their generation. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

 

# # #

 

Most children grow up thinking their home, family, and upbringing are “normal,” even when they’re not. Children and teens living in a home where one or both parents are depressed often don’t realize this isn’t the norm — though this situation is more common than you may think.

 

In fact, fifteen million kids in the United States have parents with depression.

 

As a result, these fifteen million kids are at greater risk of developing depression themselves. But depression can happen to anyone. It can occur after a trauma or during a stressful situation, or it can develop due to someone’s particular brain chemistry. Why someone develops depression is important, particularly if it’s due to situational or lifestyle factors, which can be changed. But more important than the why is the how. As in, how do you deal with depression? That is the real focus of this book because depression can put someone at risk for any number of issues, including suicide. The faster you recognize the symptoms of depression, the faster you can get treatment and reduce the risk of other, even more serious issues. Additionally, the more you know, the better you can help others.

 

Are you at risk for depression? Consider the following questions, all of which may indicate that someone is already depressed or at risk for developing depression. If you find yourself answering affirmatively even to several questions, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re depressed, but you may have an increased risk of becoming so. Later we’ll talk about what you can do if you or someone you love is suffering from depression.

 

Depression Self-Assessment

 

Do you currently live with a family member who suffers from depression?

Studies have shown that living with a mother or father who has depression, whether the cause is environmental or genetic, increases your own risk of developing the condition. You may not know if a parent suffers from depression; if you feel safe asking, do so. If not, consider whether they exhibit the signs described in this book. Further, you don’t have to live with a depressed family member to be at risk.

Does life feel pointless?

Everyone may occasionally feel hopeless as they navigate through school, work, and life. But if a hopeless feeling persists day after day and affects your daily behavior, it could be a sign of depression.

Do you find it impossible to concentrate?

Depression can make it hard to concentrate even when you’re reading or watching something you love.

Have you withdrawn from your friends and family?

It’s important to do your own thing and be independent, but this should be balanced with a healthy amount of socializing and bonding with friends and family. Depression sufferers often turn down opportunities to be with others simply to be alone.

Have you noticed a sudden change in your weight?

Extreme weight loss or gain can be a symptom of depression. If you’ve lost your appetite or find yourself seeking comfort in food, this may be because your brain chemistry is being affected by depression.

Do you have insomnia, or do you sleep too much?

Look, teenagers need their sleep and often don’t get enough. But if you go through long periods of sleeplessness or of sleeping too much, depression may be the reason.

Do you have physical pain that won’t go away?

Depression doesn’t just cause emotional pain. Depression can cause chemical imbalances in your brain that make you perceive pain differently, and it could be the reason for a persistent physical pain that doctors can’t find a reason for.

Have your grades dropped? Have you stopped participating in extracurriculars?

Depression has two best friends: apathy and lack of energy. These can combine to affect your performance in school and your extracurricular activities, and they can sap your passion for activities you once loved.

Have you ever thought of suicide?

If you answer yes, you’re not alone, and suicidal thoughts can be caused by depression. However, if you’re currently thinking about suicide, seek help and treatment. Tell someone. With counseling and, if necessary, proper medication, you will begin to feel better. When you’re suffering from depression, the idea of feeling better might be difficult to imagine. This is the time to practice trust and courage.

 

# # #

 

Kristi HugstadKristi Hugstad is the author of Beneath the Surface: A Teen’s Guide to Reaching Out when You or Your Friend Is in Crisis. Ever since her husband completed suicide in 2012, after years of struggling with clinical depression, by running in front of a train, she has dedicated her life to helping to abolish the stigma of mental illness and suicide. A certified grief recovery specialist, Kristi frequently speaks at high schools. Visit her online at https://www.thegriefgirl.com.

 

Excerpted from the book Beneath the Surface. Copyright ©2019 by Kristi Hugstad. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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03 Oct

Practice Self-Compassion

**Excerpted from “Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People” (Sounds True, Oct. 22, 2019)

Self-compassion means directing loving-kindness inwardly. Instead of beating yourself up, give yourself a break and acknowledge that you did your best in any circumstance. When you become your own champion, you will feel more protected in the world.

Research shows that people who are compassionate toward their own shortcomings experience greater well-being than those who harshly judge themselves. We all make mistakes, but the larger lesson of love is how we treat ourselves at those times.

Still, it’s often easier to have compassion for others than oneself. Over the years, many psychotherapist friends have lamented to me about this issue. Don’t worry. This is an area of growth that loving people must address so they can be more compassionate with their own struggles.

Compassion can be learned. Start by planning at least one act of kindness toward yourself daily. For example, turn off your computer and enjoy a walk or tell yourself, “Good job,” or “I’m happy that I didn’t react nastily to a controlling friend.” My Taoist teacher says, “Beating yourself up a little bit less each day is spiritual progress.”

SET YOUR INTENTION

I will be my own best friend. I am not perfect, nor are any of us. I will not beat myself up. I will treat myself with kindness.

 

*    *    *

Judith Orloff, M.D., is a New York Times bestselling author, a member of the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty, and has a Facebook Empath Support Community with more than 6,000 members. She has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, and in Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and more. Her new book, Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People  (Sounds True, Oct. 22, 2019), draws from her own experiences as an empath to share the secret to well-being. Learn more at drjudithorloff.com.

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19 Sep

Being Thankful Out Loud

An excerpt from Loving Out Loud by Robyn Spizman

 

While it can be easy to feel like it is impossible to make a positive difference in these divisive times, the new book Loving Out Loud: The Power of a Kind Word by New York Times bestselling author Robyn Spizman promises that our words can go a long way in that regard, especially when we share them out loud.

 

Loving Out Loud offers readers creative ideas and practical insights for cultivating kindness in their lives while connecting more deeply with the world around them. The book is divided into chapters that provide readers with powerful ways for raising kinder children; loving their significant others, family, and friends; and valuing teachers, coworkers, and everyone in between. We hope you will enjoy this excerpt from the book.

 

# # #

 

Since I haven’t thanked you yet today, let me do so now. I realize you could be doing any number of things at this very second, but you chose to read this article. For that I am truly grateful.

 

Having a mindful, kind attitude can change our view of life. I like to think of it as being a kindness “influencer,” as with social media. Imagine together starting a Loving Out Loud (LOL) campaign of caring about each other. Watch what happens when you share an attitude of gratitude in your world and show appreciation to others out loud — it’s electric and kinetic!

 

Albert Schweitzer summed up gratitude when he said, “Often…our own light goes out, and is rekindled by some experience we go through with a fellow-man. Thus we have each of us cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

 

When we appreciate someone and become that spark, a thank-you becomes a gift and lights us up. We all have so many people to thank. How we thank someone becomes part of our signature style of kindness. Studies continue to prove that the more we do for others, the happier we feel. There is a direct correlation. Cultivating kindness is a wonderful opportunity to uplift others as well as ourselves. When we turn our attention to noticing what we are grateful for, we bring out the best in ourselves.

 

If you stop and think of all the people you know who deserve a thank-you, you’ll be surprised to see just how many have an impact on your day, along with your life.

How a Thank-You Can Brighten Your Life

There are days when we all feel down or blue. A thank-you “out loud” is a really nice way I know to shift a mood. It can begin with the power of a simple hello, showing your genuine delight and lift up another person, including yourself.

 

A kindhearted hello leads to friendships, new contacts, relationships, and more. You are not just breaking the ice but are igniting an opportunity when you take the risk to connect with another person and reach out first, sharing positive words or an observation. You create the possibility of making a new friend. In return, you are also seen as friendly, outgoing, considerate, engaging, complimentary, and interested. These good traits contribute to making a wonderful first impression.

Be Thankful Out Loud

The words thank you are universal in their ability to spread good feelings. It’s clear that when we thank the people who touched our lives in little as well as powerful ways, we celebrate a part of life that validates each other.

 

Think for a moment:

  • Who has helped you along the way in your lifetime?
  • Who wrote recommendation letters on your behalf?
  • Who took the time to teach you to ride a bike, read a book, play an instrument, hit a home run, play tennis, or cook a special recipe?
  • Who makes your life easier or has come to your rescue?
  • Is there someone who has been there for you through thick and thin?
  • Do you practice saying “thank you”?

Every day there are opportunities around you, and when you seize them out loud, you build and increase your LOL radar. When you see someone in uniform who has served the country or provides safety or a public service, get in the habit of saying, “Thank you for your service.” Here are some other ideas.

Make a Thank-You Date

A friend recently reminded me how special it is to thank others out loud with a scheduled “thank you” date or get-together. Every year, she takes her babysitters out for a thank-you lunch dedicated to expressing her appreciation. It makes her kids’ caregivers feel special, and they make new friends at these dates, since they have so much in common. Whether it’s a lunch to thank a teacher, breakfast to thank Grandma for driving car pool, a mother-daughter walk at the park, or a dinner with a friend who volunteered to help you, thank-you dates are memorable and a tradition worth establishing.

 

Having written about the topic of thanks, love, and kindness for decades, I’ve discovered many clever ways to say “thank you,” some that don’t even use those words. For example, I loved it when a younger gentleman gave a handshake to an elderly coworker and said, “I want to shake the hand of the nicest person I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. You are one generous soul.”

 

I continue to marvel at all thank-yous that make us feel appreciated, but some hit it right out of the park. I’ll never forget one I received that made me smile from ear to ear. It has stuck with me over the years as among the most touching thank-yous ever to warm my heart.

 

I sent a holiday gift to a friend of mine’s daughter. As she opened it, her parents videotaped her reaction and sent me the thank-you video capturing her excitement. Her joy in unwrapping her present was off the charts. That was one gift that kept on giving joy!

 

# # #

 

Robyn Spizman is the author of Loving Out Loud. She is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and popular keynote speaker who has appeared in the media for over three decades, including NBC’s Today show more than thirty times. She lives in Atlanta. Visit her online at http://www.robynspizman.com.

 

Excerpted from the book Loving Out Loud. Copyright ©2019 by Robyn Spizman. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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15 Jun

The Eight Steps of Love on Every Breath

An excerpt from LOVE ON EVERY BREATH by Lama Palden Drolma

At this time, when our human family is facing many challenges, it is more important than ever that we find peace and sustenance in our hearts. In the new book Love on Every Breath: Tonglen Meditation for Transforming Pain into Joy, author Lama Palden Drolma introduces a profound, ancient meditation that has been practiced in isolated mountain retreats in the Himalayas for centuries, which is now available to the modern world.

In the standard Tonglen, the meditator simply breathes in the suffering of others and then breathes out love and compassion to them, but this approach does not always work well for Westerners, who often find it difficult to get past the ego’s roadblocks. That is why Lama Palden prefers to teach the more user-friendly “Love on Every Breath” variation to Westerners, which comes from the Shangpa lineage of two enlightened women.

We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

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Love on Every Breath is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana meditation from the Shangpa lineage that combines breath, awareness, imagination, and an energetic transformation process. The meditation brings all these components together in a powerful way in order to open our hearts, to reveal and cultivate our kindness, love, compassion, and wisdom. In Tibetan, this is called the Extraordinary Tonglen, since it uses special techniques of Vajrayana to transform suffering. The Tibetan word tonglen is composed of two words — tong means “giving or sending,” and len means “receiving or taking.” First, we open ourselves to receive and feel the suffering of ourselves and others, breathing it into our heart center. This is the “taking.” The suffering is then instantaneously and effortlessly liberated in the heart and transformed by a special method into unconditional love. At this point, on the out-breath, love and healing energy are sent back out to whomever you are doing the meditation for at the moment, whether yourself or another. This is the “sending.”

The primary purpose of the Love on Every Breath meditation is to cultivate our love and compassion, to transform and liberate our heart. When we come from a place of love, everything shifts for us. This book gives you the tools to transform and empower yourself and come to a place of creative engaged freedom.

The Love on Every Breath meditation is not an exotic Himalayan practice, but it is something that emerges out of us spontaneously and naturally. It is inherent in us to want to remove suffering — others’ or our own. The problem for many children (and adults) is that we absorb the suffering of others, and then it stagnates inside of us. Love on Every Breath gives a way for the suffering to be liberated in the body and the psyche and emerge as compassion. There is a felt sense as this happens.

 

The Eight Steps of Love on Every Breath

The Love on Every Breath meditation has eight steps. The complete meditation is done as a sitting practice and takes about forty-five minutes to an hour from start to finish, but the practice is highly adaptable and can be easily abbreviated.

 

Here is a brief description of each step. In step 1, Resting in Open Awareness, we let go of everything. We let go of the past and the future; we let go of any and all ideas about ourselves or others; we completely let go into our bodies and into relaxing. We become aware of our mind so that we don’t allow it to wander into thinking. Rather, we stay present with what is. Usually, the easiest way to do this is to join our attention and breath. This anchors us in our body, and in our felt sensations, instead of in our thoughts. This is a doorway into calm abiding. We simply rest in awareness and openness; openness is synonymous with emptiness.

 

In step 2, Seeking Refuge in Awakened Sanctuary, we go for refuge, for sanctuary, to the awakened ones. This helps create a context and the space for our meditation. We also ask the buddhas and other awakened beings to support us during our meditation.

 

In step 3, Cultivating Awakened Mind, we engender the altruistic intention to fully awaken to be able to help liberate all beings from suffering.

 

In the fourth step, Stepping into Love, we invite an awakened being, traditionally Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, to be present above the crown of our head.

 

Following our heartfelt prayers, Chenrezig dissolves into ourselves, and we meditate that we become inseparable from Chenrezig. The awakened mind is then established in the heart center as a crystal vajra of light, which is a symbol of the indestructible, pure luminous empty reality of who we truly are, our buddha nature. The vajra is what transforms the suffering — not our individual personality or ego. This saves our ego from saying, “I don’t want to take in more suffering! I have enough of my own!”

 

The Vajra that Appears in our Heart Center

 

In the fifth step, Taking and Sending for Yourself, we imagine our ordinary self in front of us and contemplate our pain and wounds, meeting ourselves with loving awareness. We breathe in our suffering as a dark smoke-like substance, breathing it right into our heart center. As soon as it touches the vajra of light, we visualize a lightning bolt arising from the vajra, transforming all suffering into white light, symbolic of unconditional awakened love and healing energy. When we are breathing out, this white light goes into the heart center of our ordinary self, where it heals, illuminates, and awakens.

 

In the sixth step, Taking and Sending for Others, we meditate on a loved one, and gradually we include others. As in the previous step, we contemplate their suffering, big and small, see it as dark smoke, and breathe it into the vajra in our heart. When the suffering touches the vajra, it is instantly transformed. Then, on the out-breath, we imagine the white light going into the person or people, filling them with light and healing, and eventually bringing about their awakening.

 

Chenrezig, together with the vajra of awakening, greatly enlarges our capacity to welcome the suffering and transform it. Slowly we expand our meditation out to various people and groups of people, until finally all beings are included. We rest in the love and joy of all of us awakened together.

 

Step 7, Dissolving, involves dissolving our visualization, completely letting go, and resting in open awareness. Then in step 8, Dedicating, we dedicate any and all benefit of our meditation to the awakening of all beings.

 

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Lama Palden Drolma is the author of Love on Every Breath. A licensed psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and coach, she has studied Buddhism in the Himalayas with some of the most preeminent Tibetan masters of the twentieth century. Following a traditional three-year retreat under his guidance, Kalu Rinpoche authorized her to become one of the first Western lamas. She subsequently founded the Sukhasiddhi Foundation, a Tibetan Buddhist teaching center in Fairfax, California. Visit her online at http://www.lamapalden.org.

 

Excerpted from the book Love on Every Breath. Copyright © 2019 by Lama Palden Drolma. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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17 Apr

Intuition: Your Soul Signals

An excerpt from Energy Speaks by Lee Harris

Most of us intuitively feel that reality contains a spiritual dimension hidden from our five senses. For author Lee Harris, that spiritual dimension became startlingly real one day when he began communicating with “the Zs,” a group of nonphysical beings from another plane of reality. At first, Lee dismissed the Zs as figments of his imagination, but they spoke with such wisdom and compassion that he became convinced of their existence. He quickly discovered that they had profound insights to offer into the big issues facing all of us: relationships, prosperity, health, and more.

 

In Energy Speaks: Messages from Spirit on Living, Loving, and, Harris distills the Zs’ wisdom into a concise and practical guide for conscious living that promises that each one of us is an irreplaceable part of something much greater than ourselves, and that help is always available to us from unexpected sources. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

 

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Our destiny is being reframed and reshaped every day depending on how we show up: The truths we tell. The choices we make. The willingness to grow and change.

 

Destiny says, “Okay, we’ll give her this new boyfriend to help her get over the boyfriend she was with a year ago.”

 

You start to date that new guy, but then you meet someone else, too — someone who is a lot more like your old boyfriend.

 

So this is the choice point. You’re offered an upgrade boyfriend or the old pattern.

 

This time, you choose the old pattern. You choose what is your habit.

 

Now, even though it’s not going so well with the old pattern in a new form, it’s familiar. In a little bit of time, either you get to the point where you say, “You know what? I’ve already done this relationship dynamic before. Thank you. You’re very nice, but this is not for me.” Or your resolve crumbles and you go back into your comfort zone.

 

Six months later, you’re looking sickly and have run out of energy. You’re turning up at events holding the hand of the more predictable boyfriend, and your friends are nervous to say anything to you (kind of like you were with Jill). Your last boyfriend was a bit tricky, and they don’t want to get in the middle of that again. Meanwhile, you’re just going down, down, down, inside your own soul. Stuck in the habit.

 

It doesn’t have to go that way. Your destiny path is constantly signaling you through your intuition. The beauty of intuition is that it’s like a GPS installed by your soul — constantly rerouting and rewiring you based on your choices. It’s calibrating you to more and more courage and honesty. It’s leading you to greater empowerment and freedom of being and expression.

 

Of course, following your intuition doesn’t mean that every wish is going to come true, that every situation is going to work out the way you first envision it, or that the path will be clear of all obstacles. Well, I had this intuition that I was going to be Joe Smith’s girlfriend. So what happens inside you when being with Joe Smith isn’t what plays out for you? Do you decide that your intuition isn’t trustworthy? Do you mistreat yourself in some way? Or are you kind to yourself around the disappointments and hurts that you sometimes feel? Do you recognize that the situation has changed, and so, too, can you?

 

We get attached to various pathways, destinations, and outcomes. And we forget that the only attachment our soul has is to our growth. All it wants to know is: are we growing and expanding? Our soul doesn’t say, “Yes, she needs to marry that woman named Yvonne, and it will all be great! Gay marriage is on the way, so that will work out well. They’re going to have a house in Birmingham, and they’re going to have three kids.” No. The soul is overseeing the deeper undercurrents of transformation, less focused on the specifics. “She needs to experience empowered love without restriction.”

 

Destiny says:

We put Yvonne there for her, and she didn’t pick Yvonne. And while there was a possibility that she would stay with Yvonne, she walked away from Yvonne after a month because she was not quite ready for that depth of love. She chose the next one in line so she could see how painful her relationships can be when her choices aren’t aligned with her innermost being, and she stayed with that person for six months until she got sick.

We are constantly redirecting and being redirected. And learning to tune our dial to the frequency of our intuition makes for a more fun-filled journey…no matter how many twists and turns there are along the way.

 

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Lee Harris the author of Energy Speaks: Messages from Spirit on Living, Loving, and Awakening. He is also an intuitive medium, transformational leader, musician, and visual artist. In 2004, he began holding channeling sessions and readings in his home, and today he leads workshops throughout the world. A native of England, he is now based in California. Visit him online at https://www.leeharrisenergy.com.

 

Excerpted from the book Energy Speaks. Copyright ©2019 by Lee Harris. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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17 Apr

REVEALING THE REAL YOU IN LOVE

The Letter Code CoverAn excerpt taking from The Letter Code: Deciphering Why You Love the Way You Love

By Dr. Krystal White, Ph.D
Go to www.thelettercode.com/resources to take the quiz and find out what YOUR letter is.

You know the feeling of being completely yourself, unencumbered and free. It feels like a peaceful contentment. We all want relationships, especially romantic partnerships, where we can be intimately and positively connected to our significant others and be our true selves at the same time. We need to find our own centers to achieve this dynamic. Feeling successful in our relationships is reliant on our ability to uncover and respond to our hidden core love needs.

If you’re like me, you live in a complicated world and find yourself to be rather complicated, too. Being “authentic” is not as easy as it sounds. You need to shift through lots of detail on the surface to quickly get to the simple, real you underneath all the roles, responsibilities, and rules you have adopted. Your letter code is a hack for deciphering all this superficial stuff to get to the most essential way you genuinely connect with your significant others.

Your letter code reveals the basic need you are seeking to fulfill in love—and have been all your life—although you may not have known it. It dictates how you fundamentally relate to your romantic partners and explains the reason why. Everybody has a combination of needs that, when met, facilitate them in clicking with their partner. The love connection just flows when this occurs.

You know this clicking when you feel it. It happens when you are loving from your real code and not a false one. Staying close to your code— your real center of love—will quickly reduce how much effort you put forth to connect, and it will increase your experience of being in the right place to feel love.

In this book, you will be guided to classify your behavior, feelings, and thoughts into their most essential form. Knowing our codes helps us quickly translate and communicate our real selves to the significant others we’d like to love better.

People have only one of four main romantic love profiles that explains their patterns of connectivity. The needs that underlie each of these profiles are recognizable and easy to understand. The four letter codes represent essential patterns of thought, feeling, and actions. These are expressed in how emotionally close or distant people like to be in relationship with their significant others. They also help us decipher the degree to which we seek either autonomy or support from them.

Under different circumstances, some people need either to move emotionally closer to their partners or emotionally away from their partners. Other people don’t need to move at all, needing instead to remain grounded, while either standing together or standing apart. Each of these four behavioral styles conveys how people achieve connectivity with their significant others.

In this book, I’m giving you a quick tool for understanding the four main types of psychological needs driving how we love. Without psychobabble or spending time trying to deduce the origins of your profile, I’m going to give you quick, user-friendly information on how much support, togetherness, groundedness, and separation you naturally need in your love life to click with a partner.

How to feel fulfilled, happy, and aligned with a significant other may have been hidden to you up to now. But I want you to be able to see the real you in love. Knowing your letter code has the potential to powerfully change the way you love from here on out.

You Get the Picture

 

Consider the body language when two people approach one another in greeting. Some people lean in, some people stand upright, and some lean away. Some people even want to be so close that they are practically standing on top of one another.

These physical patterns are like the lines making up letters in an alphabet. Imagine that each person’s body is a straight line. Lines join together to make a letter, just as two adults connect together to form a couple. Being able to read the letters is a hack that can help you quickly understand yourself.

It is not possible to accurately discern anybody’s relationship needs purely from observing the way he or she approaches others. What you see is not what you get. But you can decipher your own core needs in a relationship by examining what’s beneath your patterns of feeling, thinking, wanting, and behaving in love.

The reason to do this is because you can’t change what you can’t see. Once you can see your letter code, you’ll be more effective in connecting with others while being the real you.

The Different Ways We Touch

Looking at how the lines of our energy and behavior touch and connect reveals commonalities and differences in our core needs in relationship.

 

Leaning In

Some people need to lean into a relationship, wanting to establish a mutually supportive connection. If this feels right for you, you want not only to assist your partner, but to also lift her up emotionally. You want both of you to be there to help each other when vulnerable, and receive a significant degree of support from the connection. Without this consistent support, you will feel that something just isn’t right. You may feel slight unease, disappointment, or frustration—perhaps assuming that you are being taken for granted or mistreated. Or you could feel self-judgmental, becoming dissatisfied with yourself for not being enough or doing well enough to have earned and received the support you wanted.

You may be a person who naturally needs a significant degree of emotional vulnerability. You appreciate it when you are needed; and if you are being honest with yourself, you like it when you can trust it is safe for you to need someone. Getting this need met provides you with an essential sense of stability.

Leaning Back

Some people need to lean back from a relationship, wanting to diverge from their significant others. If this sounds like you, there are times when you will seek to go into a completely different direction from your significant other. You  need periodic diversion away from being a couple in order to feel satisfied. Leaning away occasionally, or even frequently, gives you space to reflect on your own life, to feel more gratitude for the relationship, and to bring vitality and renewed passion back to your relationship.

If your partner does not like or genuinely value this type of leaning away, you may feel frustrated, ashamed, or guilty of your desire. You may establish destructive habits to gain this freedom or to repress your need for it. Neither is an ideal solution. By contrast, if you can lovingly express your need to have separate experiences and your partner is willing to embrace your need, as a couple you may discover that adventures external to your partnership actually brings integrity to the relationship.

Standing Side by Side

Some people feel a need to be grounded and upright. They prefer to touch in ways where each person isn’t required to lean in to connect. They prefer to stand side by side in love. If this sounds like you, you tend to find purpose in maintaining a solid, rooted foundation. You feel fulfilled by being steadfast in your commitments, and you value a strong work ethic. You view relationships as partnerships where two people care about each other’s wellbeing and take responsibility for themselves as well. It feels important to you to see eye to eye with your partner and to function as equals.

Reaching Out

Some people are looking for companionship from their significant others. Companionship provides a bridge of connection between otherwise separate entities. If you deeply appreciate it when your partner reaches out to you in reciprocity to enjoy common interests, tasks/projects, activities, and experiences, this may be your preferred dynamic. Sharing and collaborating is a link to your significant other that provides a clear way for you to enhance your mutual pleasure.

Focus on Yourself First

In the next four chapters, you’re going to learn how to decipher your personal letter code and hidden relationship needs. It doesn’t matter if you are in a long-term relationship, such as a marriage, or if you are only casually dating right now. In either case, you have built-in, natural ways of joining your life with a person you genuinely want to love. Once you know your core need and can more easily see it behind your thoughts, emotions, and actions, then you can start to build (or rebuild) your love life from a foundation of empowered awareness rather than false interpretations.

Each letter code visually represents the type of relationship a person is either consciously or unconsciously trying to create according to his or her personal motivation. Understand your letter code and you’ll be clued in about your innermost need.

 

Beware! Trying to guess your significant other’s letter code could lead to disconnection. Remember, these needs are mostly hidden from us. We can spend many years superficially reading our relationships one way, while the truth of what we need is completely the opposite. You’ll get much better results if you work on deciphering your own motivation first before you try to guide your significant partner to decode his/her own needs.

 

Focus on yourself. That often serves as a powerful tool to influence others to do the same.

 

 

KRYSTAL WHITE, Ph.D., is a leadership psychologist with more than 15 years of experience working with individuals, organizations, and communities.

 

Dr. White holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, is a board certified child and adolescent psychologist, and has completed a medical fellowship at Madigan Army Medical Center in developmental pediatric psychology. She also holds a master’s degree in Christian Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a master’s degree in mind, brain, and education from Harvard University.

 

For more information, please visit www.thelettercode.com and www.drkrystalwhite.com or connect with Dr. White on Instagram and LinkedIn.

 

The Letter Code is available on Amazon, www.thelettercode.com, and wherever books are sold.

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