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18 Jun

Mother-in-Law or Mother-in-Love?

You’ve found the man of your dreams — but is his mother turning your life into a nightmare? You choose your husband, but you don’t choose his family. His mom is a part of the package and somehow you’ve got to learn to get along. Even if you live far away and don’t have to deal with each other daily, issues come up at holidays and birthdays and any family event. Who goes where and when and who cooks and what?

Get the image of Jane Fonda’s “Monster-in-Law” character out of your head. All mother-in-laws are not like that! The media loves to exploit the relationship with over-the-top humor. Mother-in-laws are simply mothers, and if their behavior rages out of control it’s because they don’t want to lose that role, or that honored position, in their child’s life.

I actually have two mother-in-laws. How can that be? Well, when I divorced my first husband I didn’t divorce his mom. She’s a very important part of my children’s lives, and mine. I respect her, and make sure that she is updated on the boys’ activities and kept abreast of any family going-ons that she needs to know about. She appreciates that, and always remembers me on my birthday and at Christmas. And my ex-husband still keeps up with my mother and often calls her for “motherly” advice. Meanwhile, I married again and I have a new mother-in-law who lives in Australia. She is “mum” to me! We don’t get to see each other very often, but we talk on the phone quite a bit. When we go to visit we stay with her, and do what we can to help out while we’re there.

Becoming a mother-in-law is a milestone in terms of aging. It can affect someone on a profound level, as they feel they become somewhat secondary in their child’s life. Emotions are mixed, and communication can be cloudy, or harsh. The mother-in-law might take her frustrations out on the “other woman,” which is YOU!

Yes, there are horror stories, you see them on “Jerry Springer” all the time. But it doesn’t have to be like that. The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship can be an alliance. You might be best-buds, you can definitely be friends, and at the very least you can have mutual respect and admiration. Here are some tips:

1. Remember that the first thing you two have in common is that you both love the same man: her son, your husband. This doesn’t have to be a competition for his time and attention. You each hold a special place in his heart.

2. Have an attitude of gratitude. If it weren’t for your mother-in-law, your husband wouldn’t be here! Thank her for that. She has a lot to do with the man your husband is today. For all those good qualities he has, whether genetic or learned, thank her.

3. Be respectful. This woman has been through a lot in her life. She should be valued. Ask her questions, tap into her wealth of knowledge. Let her share her experiences with you.

4. Spend time together. Get to know this new person in your life. Take her to lunch, or have a spa day, have fun and laugh like girlfriends. These times when you get along great and there is no conflict will go along way to helping smooth things over when an inevitable disagreement comes along.

5. Be kind. Give compliments, send cards, remember her birthday and other special occasions. Smile when you see her. Bring flowers or a gift when you go to visit. When you put out kindness, that’s what you get back. Kindness softens the heart.

6. Speak up, and also listen. If something is bothering you, or you feel like you’re being put in a situation where you are not comfortable, clear the air. Don’t let things fester. Be clear so that there are no misunderstandings. Let your mother-in-law talk to you when she needs to, and listen to what she has to say.

7. Understand that you can never change another person, you can only change your response to any given situation. Look at what you can do to make your relationship with your mother-in-law better. Don’t have any expectations about what she “should” do or say or how she “should” behave. Learn to love her for who she is, as she is, not for who or how you want her to be.

8. Be yourself. Relax. You don’t have to be perfect, and trying to be perfect will only put pressure on your mother-in-law to try to be perfect, too. It’s okay to let her see you without your make-up on. It’s okay that you aren’t “superwoman.” When you let your guard down, your mother-in-law will, too.

Keep in mind that one day you will be a mother-in-law, too, and you can employ many of these techniques in vice-versa to establish a positive and loving relationship with your new daughter-in-law.

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13 Jun

Weekend Away to Carmel California

Carmel California Weekend Getaway

 

Ready for a weekend away? Who isn’t?! Last weekend Greg and I were excited to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and explore the beauty of the coast in Carmel, California. Carmel is just about a 6-hour trip including stops from Los Angeles up the 101. It’s an easy drive with plenty of places to stop along the way. We usually stop in Buellton, and then again in San Luis Obispo for some rest and refreshments. And we listen to audio books so the time passes very quickly.

 

We had reservations at the Hofsas House in Carmel – this is a lovely family-run hotel that provides the highest level of hospitality, for people as well as their pets! The hotel has just 38 rooms and is Bavarian inspired in its theme, including charming Dutch doors. There’s a sparkling heated swimming pool, European style dry saunas, many in-room amenities (our room had a kitchenette and a fireplace!) You get a continental breakfast every morning, and personal concierge services. Carrie Theis, the owner of Hofsas House, gave us an overview of Carmel and set us out on a day of fun and romance!

After our delicious breakfast of fresh locally-made pastries, we walked through downtown Carmel to the California Coastal trail. We walked part of it on the beach, and part through the town. The whole place is so pretty – and the ocean is absolutely breathtaking. In Carmel the homes don’t have street numbers, instead they are named! It was sweet to look at some of the names of the homes and admire the beautiful landscaping throughout the town.

Most tourists ask if Clint Eastwood is still the mayor of Carmel. He actually served just one term as mayor, from 1986-1988. The restaurant he started, The Hog’s Breath Inn, is still there doing great business on Ocean Ave, the “Main Street” of Carmel.

We worked up an appetite on our walk/hike but couldn’t resist stopping in for a quick wine tasting before lunch! Wineries open up at noon, and there are quite a few very nice little tasting rooms in Carmel. We especially enjoyed “Dawn’s Dream” at the corner of 7th and San Carlos and we got to meet Dawn herself! Dawn created the business to help create dreams for others by donating product, money, or time to support nonprofit organizations. Her wines are delicious! She has 3 different Pinot Noir’s that we tried, each named for one of her daughters.

We picked up a picnic lunch from the 5th Ave Deli and it was amazing. They have plenty of great vegan options. I got a Falafel Pita sandwich with avocado and artichokes. Wow!

After lunch it was shopping time! The beautiful colors and lights in the Turkish Fine Art Gallery drew me in. It was hard to decide what to get as everything would have gone great in my house! And, of course, we had to stop by Thinker Toys to get some unicorn things for our little granddaughter. We also spent a lot of time in the Secret Garden and the Pilgrim’s Bookstore. Every shop in Carmel is just so charming and welcoming. We got a fancy coffee at Café Carmel and limited ourselves to just one in their amazing array of pastries.

We made our way back to Hofsas House to freshen up, then set out for dinner in nearby Pacific Grove at the Beach House restaurant. There’s no such thing as a bad table at this place. It is RIGHT on the beach so there are views all around. I started with a chilled Castroville artichoke – yummy! They adapted one of their pasta dishes to be vegan just for us and it was fabulous! The service was wonderful, great ambience, this is a terrific place.

After dinner we had time for a movie – such a treat, we rarely go out to a movie anymore. Monterey is right next door to Carmel and there are plenty of movie theatre options to choose from.

 

We left Carmel feeling refreshed and inspired. Nature, good food, some shopping, some rest… what more could we ask for? We will definitely be back!

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11 Jun

What’s Your Purpose? Much More Than Your Job

The Mayan Calendar comes to a close, and many predict the end of times. But I see that 2012 is a year that promises change, new beginnings, a shift in thinking. We are moving away from the information age, and moving towards an inspiration age. And as we are transitioning our behaviors from those of consumers to those of citizens, we are looking at what is really important in our lives and asking ourselves big questions — such as: What is my purpose in life?

“Dharma” is a Sanskrit word meaning “purpose.” Dharma actually has 16 different translations, one of which means teachings, or lessons. This seems appropriate because in many ways, our life’s purpose is our lesson, and vice-versa. We each come to feel at some point in our lives that there is something important for us to do, or learn, or experience. We understand that there has to be something more than just living day to day. Another meaning of dharma is truth. As we grow in awareness, we seek to know truth, that deeper meaning to life, and what it is all about. We seek our dharma, to fulfill our purpose, to somehow have our lives make sense in the context of everything that is going on in the world.

When we talk about “purpose” it is clear that we each have our individual purpose — a reason why we’re here on this planet in this specific place and time — and that’s up to each of us to figure out for ourselves. Our purpose is more than our vocation. We can experience our purpose in everything we do, and everywhere we go.

In the west, we think of yoga primarily as a form of exercise. Although physical postures make up one branch of this philosophy, yoga in general is so much more. The Sanskrit word “yoga” means to yoke, or to unite. The purpose of yoga is to experience the connection we have with the divine. In Vedanta there are four different yogas, or spiritual practices, to help us to accomplish this feeling of connection. The yogas can be practiced individually or in combination, as each one balances and strengthens the others. Each one is a kind of path to discovering our divinity. We can map out our own course using our particular interests and strengths, based on the direction that Vedanta provides us.

The four yoga paths could be thought of as bridges, bringing us from a limited understanding of who we think we are, to the greater understanding of who we really are. These paths help us to be aware of and express our purpose, our dharma, through love, work, knowledge and meditation. Yes, we can, and do, learn through each of these paths. However our personalities will guide us more toward one path or another, so that we can focus our attention and use the strengths we have to understand these spiritual concepts in a way that makes sense to us.

Bhakti Yoga is the path of love and devotion. Bhakti is the love of all creation. It is about loving what is, without expectation. Through our relationships with people we can experience a greater awareness. There is a power, a positive energy that comes with love, that we can utilize for our spiritual growth. Vedanta explains that our love for others is unselfish and without motive when we can see the spirit within them. It is this spirit whom we truly love. So we can learn to look beyond the limiting qualities of the human to the transcendent qualities of the divine, and fully experience love heart to heart. Love is available to all of us, and it is an irresistible force! We spend our time, and emotions, developing a kind of bond with a person. Our energy goes into these connections, along with our emotions, our hopes and our human vulnerabilities. With Bhakti Yoga, we learn through our relationships, and through our primary relationship, which is with ourselves.

Karma Yoga is the path of work, or the path of service. This is work without attachment to the end result. Rather than working for a paycheck, it is performing the work we do as a spiritual offering. Karma Yoga teaches us that working merely for money, or promotions, or praise, leads us to disappointment, because we can never meet all of our expectations; it is never “enough.” However, working as a service to ourselves and to others allows us to experience spirit in everything we do. We are connected to our work, and the actions become effortless. We feel that God is working through us, and this gives us both energy and peace of mind. We learn to love what we do.

Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge. This is knowledge in the higher sense, knowing who we are, and being aware of our relationship, our connection, with God. Knowing is different than believing, it uses reasoning to help us shed the veil of illusion. Vedanta gives us tools to achieve this through affirmations that help to remind us of what is real, and to see the truth. Jnana Yoga teaches to become more discerning, recognizing the difference between what is temporary and what is eternal, so that we understand that we are pure, perfect and free.

We are all students, and we are all teachers. Our learning never ends. It is through this process of learning that we grow both intellectually and spiritually. We come to understand that the only thing we really take with us from this life experience is the wisdom that we garner. We learn to love what we learn and also the process of learning itself.

Raja Yoga is the path of meditation. By stilling the mind through meditation, we can experience more of our true selves. Raja Yoga explains that we need to settle down the mind, which is constantly stirred up with thoughts just as a lake is muddied through activity. When the lake settles down, the water becomes crystal clear, and so it is with our mind. This tranquil state of mind lets us think more clearly, and to see what is important in life. Through meditation we have direct experience of our connection with God. And Vedanta teaches us that we can integrate this experience into all aspects of our life. We don’t have to live in an ashram or renounce our worldly belongings. Our spiritual self is our true self and we can operate in society more effectively and efficiently when we understand this. We learn to love who we are.

There is wisdom to be gained from each of these paths. They all end up taking us to the same place, to the recognition of our union with the divine, to the discovery of our dharma, our purpose. The paths work in harmony with one another. We find that there are aspects of each path that we relate to. Yet quite often one of these paths will resonate with particular individuals more than the others. One will seem to offer a more clear direction, a more personal journey. All paths lead to the same destination. In Vedanta that destination is said to be an awareness of our union with the divine. We can see this as a deeper understanding of ourselves, and a greater wisdom that comes from experiencing our purpose. We learn to enjoy our lives, and embrace our dharma.

Take the quiz to determine your dharma, or purpose in life: What’s Your Dharma?

For more by Lissa Coffey, click here.

For more on yoga, click here.

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04 Jun

Bliss Is the New Black

If there’s anything that this downturn in the economy has taught us, it’s that our happiness does not depend on the money we make. We have learned to be creative, to downsize, to “make do” and to accomplish more with fewer resources. Like it or not, we have learned lessons from these experiences, and I venture to say that we are the better for it.

It’s even become trendy to shop in thrift stores, to re-purpose items we already have, and do partake in extreme couponing. It started out as a challenge, and it has developed into an art form. We blog about it, make TV shows about it, and have even begun to enjoy it! We have found a way to happiness through our creativity, resourcefulness, and ingenuity, and we are reaping the rewards of our efforts. We realize that there is an element of style in being frugal, a simplicity that makes us feel good. Bliss is the new black!

Abraham Lincoln, now experiencing a resurgence of popularity thanks to a new movie portraying him as a vampire hunter, said: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” This is as true today as it ever was. Tom Shadyac, the successful Hollywood director famous for blockbuster hits Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty, and others, had a personal experience that caused him to question what is wrong with this world, and to turn this quest for answers into a documentary entitled I Am. The big eye-opener in the film is that at a certain point our society veered off from being one of cooperation to one of competition. People started feeling the need to accumulate, to hoard, to get more and do better. Instead of acting as a community out for the good of the whole, we isolated ourselves into looking out for the good of the individual, often at the expense of the whole.

And yet, this did not make us any happier. Through much research Shadyac discovers that at a certain point, we really are about as happy as we make up our minds to be. A bigger house, more cars, more conveniences, all of the peripheral “stuff” that signals our success to the outside world, does not do anything to change our base level of happiness. In fact isolating ourselves, separating ourselves from the community, can even have the opposite effect, causing us to feel lonely and out of touch. As humans, we crave connection. The law of relationship says we are here to help each other learn and grow. We need relationships, we need people, to allow us to do that. In his film, Shadyac explains that the Aboriginals believe that to accumulate and strive for anything more than what you need to live on is mental illness. We need to look out for each other, not just for ourselves.

In the mid-1980s Joseph Campbell, mythologist, author and speaker, explained what it takes to be happy, and his philosophy can be summed up with the phrase: “Follow your bliss.” He derived this idea from the Hindu Upanishads. He said:

Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence. Sat-Chit-Ananda. The word “sat” means being. “Chit” means consciousness. “Ananda” means bliss or rapture. I thought, “I don’t know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don’t know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being.” I think it worked.

And yet, also during the 1980s, we became familiar with the mantra uttered by the character Gordon Gecko in Wall Street: “Greed is good.” Reportedly, when some of Campbell’s students took Campbell’s bliss statement to be encouraging hedonism, Campbell came back at them with: “I should have said, ‘Follow your blisters.’”

We face the same sort of disparity in messaging today. If bliss is the new black, and our values are less on the material and more on the spiritual, than why are the Kardashians so popular? Their reality TV show flaunts an uber-luxurious lifestyle, complete with private jets and international family vacations. A 16-year-old doesn’t just get a Sweet 16 party for her birthday, she gets a blow-out catered bash at a chic hotel, her own brand-new Range Rover, and the whole experience gets made into an E! network special. All of the opulence comes at a price. The mother is a workaholic who explains her lack of presence by saying on camera “I’m working to keep us afloat.” The father figure disappears for three days to make a point that he has been largely ignored and no one notices. Family members show their love by calling each other names that I can’t repeat in a G-rated publication, and adults drink to excess and often act like children wrestling each other to the floor. And then there’s that million-dollar wedding that resulted in a 72-day marriage. The priorities seem to be, at least to the viewers, quite skewed.

According to Vedanta, life is the co-existence of opposites. We can’t have one without the other. It’s a matter of balance. We need to keep all of this in perspective and know that the choices we make, with our purchases, and with our TV viewing habits, make a difference. Maybe that’s why it is so disturbing to us when Oprah, the queen of quality TV and the arbiter of taste at her very own television network, chooses to have the Kardashians on her TV show. And as a part of the deal, supposedly, Oprah has agreed to appear on their show as well. In the interview with Oprah, the siblings say that they are indeed very spiritual, but that this part of their life isn’t shown on camera. Maybe this is what Oprah wanted us to see, that even with what seems to be the most decadent lifestyle, there is a flip side. I respect Oprah, so I have to trust her judgment. Maybe it was a savvy move. If it gets some Kardashian fans over to OWN, then good for her!

How refreshing it would be to have the option to watch a reality show about real people doing real good in the world. It’s not about what happens with pampered housewives in gated communities, or the black tie fundraisers. There are so many rich stories about what really takes place right in our own neighborhoods. There are heroes in our midst, with heartwarming, life-affirming examples of how to follow our bliss by helping others. If bliss is the new black, don’t show us the closets crammed with designer shoes; show us the moments of human connection, the relationships, the growth that takes place. That’s the real character arc. That’s what sustains us. That is what is real. Everything else is just an illusion, a version of reality edited for the sake of ratings. When presented with options over time, people will eat a balanced meal — we are compelled to nourish ourselves. It works the same way with the television, too. The media can be a real instrument for change. Then maybe we’ll see that bliss, like black, is a classic that never goes out of style.

For more by Lissa Coffey, click here.

For more on the spirit, click here.

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28 May

Prescription: Media Fast — Stat !

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As someone who has been called a “media maven,” and who participates in and contributes to practically every form of print and broadcast media out there, this is probably the last thing you expect to hear from me: Turn it all off. Unplug. Seriously. We — and yes, I am speaking for just about anyone who is plugged in at the moment — are desperately in big-time need of a media fast. I wouldn’t say this if I were not experiencing it myself.

How many times do we need to come across the photo of a celebrity’s mugshot? Are we really sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to learn the most popular baby names of 2012? Do we really care that a 40-something newscaster covets a 20-something model’s dyed blonde hair? How many times do we need to hear about getting in shape for swimsuit season? And yet, these are the kinds of topics that permeate the airwaves on any given media outlet, at any given time.

Social media serves an important purpose in highlighting and encouraging the connection between us all. And yet, it is also a place for idleness, a distraction, where the trivial meets the banal. Then, when our social media “friends” post their political viewpoints, respect and courtesy often fly out the window. This forum creates as much tension and controversy as any other.

There are literally hundreds of television networks. And there are thousands of radio stations to choose from, probably even more if we count all the new online stations. There are millions of websites to peruse. We hear the same thing over and over again — in different ways at different times, through different mouths. Tweets are pre-programmed, pitches are automated, and shows are rerun ad infinitum. There is never a moment when we aren’t presented with some sort of tap dance from some form of media. Even as I’m writing this I’m feeling overwhelmed, knowing that I’m just adding more to the mix. We are on information overload! It’s time for a reboot.

Silence. Do you remember what that sounds like? Silence is the antidote to all the noise we are bombarded with every minute of every day. We’ve gotten so used to the cacophony that we don’t even hear it anymore. I know many people can’t even get to sleep without the TV or radio on. When was the last time you drove in a car without the stereo blaring? We need to detox the brain, to get some space in between the billboards so that we can think clearly, and remember what is really important in life.

Imagine what it would be like if we had to read sentences with no spaces between words. Wewoulddefinitelystruggletomakesenseofthings! There are so many media outlets literally fighting for our attention that we don’t know where to look or listen first. No wonder we’re so stressed out.

Instead, let’s start with silence. Let’s end the day with silence. Let’s spend some time in nature listening to the birds, the rain, and the wind as it moves through the trees. This is where all the wisdom of the world lives. Tap into that. When we sit quietly, check in with ourselves, we regain that sense of calm and balance that gets out of what when our attention is placed outside of ourselves for so long.

This is why traveling is so healthy and restorative. When we travel, especially if we travel to a foreign county, we’re away from media. We don’t watch TV or read the paper because it’s in another language. We give ourselves that luxury of time to rest, and to just be. There’s no reason why we can’t have that same experience wherever we are, at any time. It just takes the commitment to a regular practice. We can’t let ourselves get into bad habits.

It would be totally amazing if we could go cold turkey and just have a media-free day once a week. And for those who can do that — go for it! For others, we might want to work in a media-free hour once a day. Set aside some time when you might normally be surfing the net or watching a TV show, or, as is probably most likely, when you would be multitasking with multimedia. Media-free means no media: no books, computers, phones, games, movies, television — none of that! No going to the mall, either. This is time to reflect, to be still, to gain insight, to be calm. Sit outside, take a bath, or go for a hike. There are lots of options. Don’t try to distract yourself, just be with yourself. Novel concept, I know — but I think you’ll find that you are very good company.

The idea behind a media fast is to regain balance. We’ve been so inundated with media for so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to just be quiet. We need that reminder that our inner world is alive and well and ready to serve us. Everything we could possibly need or want resides within each one of us. When there’s a power outage, we’re kind of forced to take a media break — unless of course you’ve got backup systems and generators. But a media fast is proactive. It’s purposeful, and meant to help us set our priorities straight.

Shall we start right now? Who’s in?

For more by Lissa Coffey, click here.

For more on unplugging and recharging, click here.

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24 May

It’s Time to Get Serious About Your Happiness

There’s a great quote by Jean-Paul Sartre: “We are our choices.” When it comes to our happiness and our overall success in life, that’s truer than you might have realized.

Taking time to examine the choices you make in your life and work each day and over the long term to make sure they are enhancing your well-being can do more than just make you happier. Working on enhancing happiness has actually been shown to have a tangible return on investment and can make you more successful.

Here’s one example from the business world. According to positive psychology researcher Shawn Achor, if you are happy and you have happy people around you in your organization, you can improve your organization’s performance and productivity by anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent. And if your team is happier, you will take better care of your clients and have greater impact on them—which in turn will enable your team to do well financially.

With that in mind, here are steps for increasing your happiness in ways that will lead to better results in your work and in your life. These come courtesy of Henry Miller—a truly exceptional trainer, coach and consultant who helps companies and organizations improve their performance and productivity. He spent years analyzing the growing research on well-being and synthesizing it into his book The Serious Pursuit of Happiness—an essential road map to greater happiness.

Understand the basics

Some people think they are predisposed to be happy or unhappy and that’s just how it goes. Not so. You can take steps to enhance your happiness and that of the people around you. Research using data from the Minnesota Twin Registry shows that around 50 percent of our level of happiness depends on our deliberate thoughts, attitudes and actions—great news for those of you who assumed your level of happiness is hard-wired.

To improve the drivers of happiness that are within our control, start with some basic ideas to guide you:

Happiness takes effort. Creating and enhancing happiness in your life, your family and your workplace is just like any other major initiative you undertake—it requires time and effort to get up and running smoothly.

Happiness is a numbers game. The frequency of positive events in your life matters more than the intensity of those events. You’ll have better results if you boost the number of small positive moments in your day instead of trying to have just a few instances that are hugely positive.

Happiness is a habit. Make happiness habitual—if you are not as naturally happy as other people, incorporate happy habits into your life while removing other habits.

Do more for other people. When you spend time doing things for other people and trying to make them happy, you actually end up happier than when you do things to please just yourself.

PROVEN PATHS TO HAPPINESS

Research has shown that basing your decisions on several imperatives will increase your happiness

1. Seek pleasure within limits. Real, lasting happiness doesn’t come by chasing lots of short-term pleasures. Happiness is not hedonism or doing your best to avoid all pain. The “high” from short-term pleasures doesn’t tend to stick with us very long, and if you keep doing nothing but those activities, the moments when you do feel down tend to overwhelm you.

2. Intentionally think happy. Avoid excessive self-focused rumination on the minutiae of your life. Focus on building resilience and taking control. A feeling of well-being arises when you do these things. There’s a quote often attributed to William James, the father of psychology: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their moods by altering their states of mind.”

3. Intentionally act happy. Expressing gratitude for the good things you have shuts down feelings of envy and jealousy that block your path to more happiness. If you buy yourself a “gratitude journal” and write in it every Sunday night, you can increase your happiness by 25 percent, and the positive effects can last for six months. Other happiness-building actions to work on include forgiving people who have wronged you, staying fit through exercise and diet, and getting enough sleep.

4. Cultivate positive personality traits. Honesty, courage, perseverance, tolerance, generosity—all are universally seen as good character traits. Consider the best possible future for yourself as a person at home, at work and at play. Imagine yourself in a future where everything has gone as well as it could go. What might your best possible self and best possible future look like?

5. Embrace deep connections. Close relationships are vital—Facebook friends and water-cooler buddies aren’t enough.

Plan and act

Ultimately you need to act to achieve results. Here are three proven happiness-enhancing action steps you can start doing immediately.

1. Savor the future. Write a description of what your life will ideally look like five years from today. Your vision of your ideal future will actually act like a beacon, drawing you to it. But don’t just take this step—also notice how it makes you feel when you envision a great future. This is how you savor the future, and in doing so you will elevate your positivity.

2. Express gratitude for your past. Think of someone who has positively impacted your life and whom you have never properly thanked. Write down what they did for you and all the ways you are thankful to them for what they have meant to you over the years. The mere act of writing this type of letter has been shown to boost levels of happiness.

3. Demonstrate love. If you can, go out immediately after reading this report and get a flower or card for someone you love and give it to them, saying, “Just because I was thinking about you and what you mean to me.” You can also simply call someone you love—your spouse, a best friend—and tell them how happy you are that they’re in your life. Try to do more of these types of acts every week or month, and cut down on other activities to do so if necessary. Remember that habits and frequency of actions play big roles in elevating happiness.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT: This article was published by the BSW Inner Circle, a global financial concierge group working with affluent individuals and families and is distributed with its permission. Copyright 2018 by AES Nation, LLC.

This report is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute a solicitation to purchase any security or advisory services. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. An investment in any security involves significant risks and any investment may lose value. Refer to all risk disclosures related to each security product carefully before investing. Investment Advisory Services are provided by Investment Advisor  Representatives of FMB Wealth Management and FMB Retirement Services. FMB Wealth Management and FMB Retirement Services are both Registered Investment Advisors and are affiliated entities with common ownership.

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24 May

Princeton University’s Vertical Farming Project Partners with Local Elementary School

vertical farming projectFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2018
Media Contact: Stephanie Marshall stephanie@mnspublicity.com

New Vertical Farming Initiative will Provide Cutting Edge Scientific Educational Opportunities for Elementary Students and Enhance School Farm to Cafeteria Program

As Spring weather FINALLY arrives on the East Coast and gardeners and farmers eagerly await the planting season, Hopewell Elementary School Students in New Jersey have been enjoying fresh, organic produce they grow indoor all year

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University’s Vertical Farming Project announced they will partner with Hopewell Elementary School in Hopewell, New Jersey to develop their vertical farm-to-cafeteria program.

Fifth grade teacher at Hopewell Elementary, Helen Corveleyn oversees the school’s outdoor garden beds, six indoor vertical hydroponics towers and has been instrumental in their new vertical farming initiative partnership with Princeton. Corveleyn will work closely with Princeton University’s Dr. Paul Gauthier, founder and director of the Princeton Vertical Farming Project to develop the program at the elementary school. The on-site, indoor classroom will be fully functioning in September 2018 and will allow preschool through fifth grade kids to mirror Princeton’s program while providing kids with fresh, organic produce for lunch and an invaluable introduction to hands on, cutting edge scientific development.

The Princeton Vertical Farming Project focuses on the sustainability and energy efficiency of vertical farming as they study production rates of hydroponic engineering systems along with marketing and economic feasibility. Gauthier says, “Two of the main challenges that vertical farms are facing revolve around awareness and data sharing. Through establishing a resonant collaboration with the Hopewell Elementary School, the Princeton Vertical Farming Project hopes to educate new generations about the benefits of vertical farming, and to inspire them to expand their knowledge through the application of new, groundbreaking research and technologies, which the farm has been producing. Furthermore, this collaboration will create citizen science datasets, which will contribute to the improvement of the vertical farming field as a whole. By inspiring students today, we hope to shape the future of farming and reduce human impacts on the environment.”

Room to Grow–Princeton Vertical Farming Project Video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=80&v=zzXkrIuzslY

Elementary students and teachers have embraced the homemade, nutritious lunch options infused with organic ingredients served in Hopewell Elementary’s cafeteria. Their community is excited for the new vertical farming initiative with the goal of featuring 100% of the lettuce in the cafeteria grown at the school. Additional vegetables and herbs will be grown, harvested and featured as well. Principal David Friedrich’s passion for locally sourced, homemade, organic food for his students is evident in the Organic Menu offered at Hopewell. The menu is now in its third year and has seen a 50% increase in participation from the start. Principal Friedrich says, “At Hopewell Elementary School, we are thrilled to expand the vertical farming initiative which reinforces our commitment to sustainability. As the first public school in New Jersey to offer an organic menu featuring homemade entrees, we will now be able to prepare more nutritious meals infused with our own vegetables and herbs grown and harvested by students. The project also supports hands-on, relevant and high-quality science instruction aligned to Next Generation Science Standards.”

Dr. Thomas Smith, Superintendent of Schools, remarked, “Lead by Mrs. Corveleyn and Principal David Friedrich, the Hopewell Elementary School has been a driving force in our district-wide sustainability efforts. The vertical farming project has captivated the interest of students and staff. By bridging the gap between science and nature, students can observe the real-life connection between farming and food by seeing what is necessary to grow and produce the food we eat. An important part of this project is that virtually all of the food grown in the vertical farm will be used in our school lunches.”

Children respond to living organisms in the classroom with excitement and passion. Typically in an elementary setting, animals and insects are a wonderful way to promote living organism studies, but at Hopewell Elementary School, they have captured a unique Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)–aligned curriculum that is plant-based and integrates both life science and chemistry. Corveleyn remarks, “No child is too young to understand hydroponics. The bottom line is, kids love planting something they know they can eat! Creating an opportunity for sustainable gardening for the future at a young age makes hydroponics not just a buzzword, but a way of life.”

Hopewell Elementary secured several grants to sustain the vertical farming project:
Sustainable Jersey / New Jersey Education Association ($10,000)
BASF Corporation ($5,000)
Hopewell Valley Education Foundation ($4,400)
Hopewell Elementary School PTO ($7,000)
Photo credit, David Friedrich. Additional photos available upon request.

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10 May

Feng Shui Fixes for Fabulous Sleep!

May is Better Sleep Month and The Better Sleep Council is celebrating by helping all of us to be #BetterInBed – when it comes to sleep, of course!

Your bedroom is not only your sanctuary, your retreat from the world, your place of rest – it’s the one room where you spend the most time. Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese science that works with the energy of the earth to make spaces most harmonic and peaceful. This energy, or “chi,” when used positively can help strengthen relationships, support health, promote wealth, and also help you to achieve better sleep. Feng Shui shows us how, with just a few simple adjustments, the energy in the bedroom can work for you, even while you sleep!

Location, Location, Location

Where the bedroom is located within the house can affect how well you sleep. Feng Shui advises to choose a bedroom that is at the back-end of the home, close to the backyard. This area is usually much quieter because front-end rooms are closer to the street, and hence street noise. With a room near backyard you also get more privacy, so you feel safer.

If you have a two-story home, avoid stationing your bedroom over the garage. Having a room on top of the garage is disruptive to sleep for many reasons: noise, smells, warmer temperatures, and even insects. For similar reasons, it’s best to not place your bedroom over the kitchen, particularly over the stove. Much heat comes from the kitchen due to the appliances, and this will affect the temperature of the room above, as heat rises.

You also want to avoid placing your first-floor bedroom below very active areas. You can imagine how sleep would be affected if you’re hearing laughter, a TV, footsteps, or a toilet flushing right over your head. Fortunately, apartment buildings and hotels tend to have thick sound-proof flooring so that this doesn’t apply in those circumstances.

Size Matters

When it comes to both size of the bedroom, and size of the bed, we’re looking for that “Goldilocks” fit: not too big, not too small, but “just right!” We are at our most vulnerable when we are asleep. If the room is too big, it can be difficult for us to fully relax enough to sleep soundly. This feeling of needing to be “on alert” is a survival instinct from way back when. If the room is too small, we can feel cramped, or trapped, like we’re in a prison cell.

A twin sized bed is generally too small for an average-sized adult to feel comfortable in. Most colleges provide “XL Twin” mattresses in their dormitories for this reason. A full-size or queen-size bed is usually a good fit for most adults. If you happen to play in the NFL or NBA, you’re going to want a King size bed for your large frame! Most couples are happy with a Queen mattress. If you prefer a King, look for one that does not have split box springs under the mattress, so as not to create “disharmony” in your relationship, according to Feng Shui.

The Command Center

Feng Shui says that the bed should be placed in a “commanding position” in the bedroom. When you are lying in bed, you should be able to see the door in front of you so that you have a feeling of safety and stability – you can easily see when someone or something enters your space. The wall opposite the door is the best place to position the bed. At the same time, you do not want to be directly in front of the door. The head of the bed should be placed against a wall, and there should be a headboard to “stabilize” the bed’s position in the room. Ideally there should be equal space on either side of the bed so each person can get in and out easily and the room feels balanced. In the command center you want to have access to turning on the light quickly and easily.

Avoid putting the head of the bed under a window. Windows represent the gateway from the bedroom to the outside world. Having your head right under a window affects sleep from all the energy that comes from the outside – including noise, light, wind, scents, and shadows. When you sense something unfamiliar, that survival instinct kicks in and you wake up, and it can be difficult to fall back asleep.

Circulation

It is important that chi, or energy, be allowed to circulate freely throughout the room, and around and under the bed. For this reason, clutter should be kept to a minimum. The bed should be elevated off the floor on a frame or a platform, not placed directly on the floor. Don’t store boxes, books, or shoes under the bed; leave that space open for chi to flow through. Don’t overcrowd the room with furniture, and keep any work-related, or exercise-related items out of the bedroom. This works on a practical level as well – as you probably know the agony of stubbing a toe in the middle of the night. How can you not wake up after that?

A clean and organized bedroom also helps you to feel more relaxed, and that is good preparation for sleep.

For the best sleep, all doors and windows should be kept shut to keep out noises and smells. Closet doors and cupboards should also be closed at night so that chi can circulate in the room and not get “stuck” in small spaces. During the day, open windows to allow fresh air in.

Décor

When it comes to décor, choose colors that are soothing and relaxing. Nature’s colors, blues, greens and browns, are ideal. Think of the sky, a field of trees, a beautiful meadow, this is the feeling you want to evoke. Warm colors signify activity and are energizing, so avoid colors like bright reds, pinks and oranges. If you like those tones, choose more muted versions such as peach, maroon, or lavender.

For wall décor, choose artwork that makes you feel happy. A beautiful floral design is more likely to make you feel relaxed than a painting of a shipwreck, for example. Think about what you see when you first wake up in the morning, and how you want it to make you feel.

It is always best to keep electronics out of the bedroom, but if you insist on having a TV in the room, keep it in a media cabinet behind closed doors. You can also cover it with a pretty blanket or piece of fabric when not in use. This way you don’t have a big black void taking up valuable space in the room.

Mirrors are not generally recommended in the bedroom per Feng Shui. The main rule is that you don’t want to see yourself in the mirror when you’re in bed. This can be startling, and disturb your sleep. So, if you want to have a mirror in the room, place it inside the closet door. Also, mirrors that are round, or oval, are preferred because they can help with the flow of energy in a room, and the shape symbolizes continuity in a relationship.

Keep water features, such as fountains, out of the bedroom. The sound can be disruptive to sleep, and the sound of water might make you feel like you need to get up to use the bathroom!

Lighting should be set on dimmers wherever possible, so you can control the light in the room and have options depending on how much light you need during any time of day.

Comfort is Key

Feng Shui recognizes how important it is that the bedroom be a comfortable place to rest. The room needs to be cool, a nice 68 degrees is good. The room should also have good windows treatments to block out lights from outside. Most importantly, your mattress is the foundation of a good night’s sleep. Invest in the best mattress you can afford. And make sure your mattress continues to support you with time. Mattresses generally need to be replaced every 5-7 years, so keep checking to make sure your mattress is in good shape.

Bedding is also important. Choose soft fabrics that are comfortable against the skin. Pure cotton is best, as it breathes. A standard rule of thumb is that the higher the thread count, the softer the sheets. Blankets should also be soft and cozy. And don’t go crazy with the pillows! Beds with too many decorative pillows can feel cluttered and crowded. You need one great pillow to actually sleep on, one that works for your preferred sleep position. Pillows you sleep on need to be replaced about every 2 years. After that, one or two decorative pillows is sufficient.

A good night’s sleep prepares us for a good day’s activity. When we implement some of these feng shui strategies to circulate chi in the bedroom, it helps us to have good energy, too!

More tips for Better Sleep from the Better Sleep Council. 

 

Feng Shui Living Room Make-Over on YouTube.com/CoffeyTalk

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07 May

Living a Balanced, Beautiful Life With Ayurveda

Imagine you’re outside by a beautiful lake, enjoying the perfection of your surroundings. You feel comfortable, relaxed, as if you are an important part of it all. You are so in tune that it is as if you can hear nature speaking to you.

You see a swan glide past, and the swan is thinking to itself, “How wonderful it is to be a swan. I can take my time. Life is serene. I am graceful and lovely. All is right with the world.”

And then you notice an eagle flying high overhead, and the eagle is thinking, “Ah, what a joy it is to be an eagle. I am strong and free. This is the life!”

A hummingbird flits past, and you can hear the hummingbird is thinking, “I’m having so much fun on this glorious day. There’s so much to see and do. I’m so glad I’m a hummingbird and can move easily to all the things I love.”

Everything in nature has a purpose. We’re all connected. Sitting amongst the trees and looking at the clear blue sky you know that you are an important part of this connection. You breathe deeply and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and peace.

Now, imagine you’re in that same place, same time. When you hear nature speaking to you, things are a bit different.

You see a swan glide past, and the swan thinks to itself, “Oh, my. Why am I stuck being a swan? I would so much rather be like that little hummingbird. I want to flit around like that! I feel so dumpy just floating here on this silly lake.”

Then the eagle flies overhead, and you read its thoughts, “Wow. Look at that swan down there. He’s got the good life. Why can’t I just hang out on the lake? Instead I’m up here working so hard. This isn’t fair. I’d rather be a swan.”

Then the hummingbird flits by and thinks, “Really? That eagle is so lucky. She’s way up there with a great vantage point. She can go so far without even flapping her wings. I’m down here pumping away a million beats a minute! Man, I want to be an eagle.”

Somehow, this second scenario just doesn’t make sense, does it? Because this is not how nature operates! And yet, this is exactly what we do as human beings all the time. We fight our own nature. We compare ourselves to one another. We think we need to always be thinner, more beautiful, more successful, more something, anything! When the truth is that we are inherently perfect. If we are carrying around excess weight or stress or feeling bad about ourselves, it is because we are out of balance, our lives are out of balance in one way or another. We can find that perfect state of balance and regain our strength and confidence and energy to be the best that we can be.

The most important thing we can do for ourselves, to be our healthiest and happiest body, mind and spirit, is to know who we are. Some of us are swans, some of us are eagles and some of us are hummingbirds. Each being is valid, each being has value and each being brings his or her unique gifts to the world. When we know ourselves, and our own nature, we allow the best of ourselves to shine through. Nature operates through us. So why are we fighting it?

Ayurveda is the 5,000 year old “science of life” from India. It explains the nature of everything in the universe. It teaches us how to live in harmony with nature, knowing the connections that we share. Ayurveda is all about balance, and this is something we are in dire need of today.

There are a lot of things that take us away from our state of balance. We are overstressed and overworked. We overeat and are overweight. We overexert ourselves and overspend so that we end up tired, hungry, in debt and living in a mess. Look at all the extra “stuff” we carry around with us. We need to lighten up! We need to shed the stress, the pounds, the debt and the distractions and focus on what is good for us, what serves us. Food is a huge part of all this. We use food to soothe our emotions and to fill up our tummies when we feel a lack in some part of our lives. We fall into habits, with food and otherwise, that we think are easy, and they become mindless and robotic so that we don’t see any other possibilities or potential for ourselves.

It’s time to get back to nature, to get back to basics, to get back into balance. And what better way than by turning to a practice that has been tried and true for all these centuries? Ayurveda is a “sister science” with yoga and meditation. As we experience the benefits of these practices in our lives we naturally want to learn more — and that’s where Ayurveda is positioned right now.

Twenty years ago or so here in the West, feng shui was a somewhat foreign concept — but now it’s a part of our everyday vernacular. If you haven’t heard of Ayurveda yet — now you have! And if you haven’t lived the Ayurveda lifestyle yet, I encourage you to try it now.

Lots more info in my new book: “The Perfect Balance Diet: 4 Weeks to a Lighter Body, Mind, Spirit & Space” and on my new website: perfectbalancediet.com

For more by Lissa Coffey, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

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30 Apr

Ancient Anti-Aging Secret Revealed: Stop the Clock

No, this isn’t some spam ad for a crazy new facial serum or expensive injectable. I think we’ve learned by now that nothing you put on your face or in your face is going to make you stop aging. And really, some of what we’ve seen on the faces of certain celebrities make us want to run from these “miracle” treatments as they only make us look distorted and fake.

People age. That’s just the truth of the matter. Everything ages, really — it just takes a different amount of time depending on what it is. That cheese in the fridge gets a bit funky after a few weeks. But Mount Rushmore is still looking pretty good after all this time. Even rocks don’t last forever, they just seem like they do because they’re around so much longer than we are.

Time goes on. Hours turn into days and days turn into weeks and weeks turn into years. We can’t stop the calendar, and we can’t stop the clock. Or can we?

Remember when we were younger and everything seemed to take so looooong? Well, not everything. Maybe the school day lasted forever, but after school time with our friends went by super fast. We looked forward to birthdays and counted the days until we finally got to celebrate being another year older. And now, even though we see some friends rarely, when we do get together it’s like no time has passed at all, we pick up right where we left off.

Time is relative. It’s a man-made concept measured by the sun. We can’t stop the calendar, and we can’t stop the clock. Or can we? As we’ve learned, although the measurement of time is consistent for everyone, the experience of time is completely unique to each person, in each circumstance.

Every once in a while we have these amazing experiences where time stands still. It might be a beautiful sunset that takes our breath away. It might be watching a baby sleep, and storing that precious moment away as a memory. It might be getting lost in doing some work you enjoy — so much so that hours go by and it feels like mere minutes. And it might be lying in the arms of your beloved, matching your breaths, treasuring the feelings of comfort and connection.

When time stands still for us we are at peace. All is right with the world. We are engaged, relaxed and happy. All of our cells and hormones are functioning and taking care of us without any effort on our part. We are unaware of the passage of time, totally living in the moment of “now.”

By now we are well aware of the mind-body connection. So, it stands to reason that when we mentally stop the clock through these glimpses of timelessness, that our body “clock” stops as well. This may be an unscientific concept, but I think that it’s true. And understanding this, we could consciously seek out these experiences of timeless awareness to keep ourselves looking and feeling young — to turn back the clock, so to speak. We can’t always predict when or how we are going to fall into these moments — but we can plan out our day so that have them on a regular basis. How? With meditation.

By setting aside just 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening to sit in silence you can take years off of the way you look and feel. In meditation, we let go of burdens and responsibilities and just sit. We allow thoughts to drift by and peace to take over. When practiced on a regular basis, meditation can help us to feel more centered, calm, healthy and young. And when we feel that way, how can we not help but look that way as well?

Meditation can be built into our days in other ways as well. When taking a walk, pay attention to your footsteps. Imagine the earth rising towards your foot, loving every step you take. Feel the energy of the earth warming your body, filtering itself through the soles of your feet. As you breathe in the fresh air, picture this life-giving force distributing itself to every organ in your body, allowing it to renew and refresh your being.

When cooking a meal, pay attention to the colors and the textures of the vegetables. Breathe in the fragrances of the oils and spices. Listen closely to the sizzles that the food makes when it hits the pan. Imagine the service that went into the harvesting of the grains that now go to nourish your body. Focus on adding love into the dish with every stir of the spoon. And when eating, savor every bite, knowing that every morsel is serving you, benefiting you, feeding you body, mind and spirit.

Artists know what this feels like, to lose themselves in their work. If you knit, or have a pet to play with, you know the feeling as well. Engaging the senses, feeling the connection all that is, and being present as activity occurs and you observe it as much as participate in it.
Meditation can lift you up if you let it. It lightens your burdens, and in a way it gives you a facelift, too! You’ll be smiling more, stressing less and walking with a little more pep in your step. You feel better, and because of this, you look better, too. The peace of mind literally shows on your face.

You could pay hundreds of dollars for the latest and greatest face creams. You could pay thousands of dollars for fillers or surgery. You could even pay to have your pictures photo-shopped every time you post to Facebook! Or you could try the no-cost way to look and feel younger. Meditation is an ancient secret that is a secret no more. It’s available to all of us, for free, as it has been forever. Partake of the nectar, and let your inner beauty, the eternal youth of your soul, shine through.

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