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11 Oct

Are Your Thoughts Derailing Your Resilience?

An excerpt from Resilience by Linda Graham

Everyone knows what it’s like to be knocked off center, to lose their inner sense of balance and groundedness, at least temporarily, when faced with life’s unwanted curve balls. Whether it’s a troubling health diagnosis, the death of a loved one, a serious car accident, a layoff, or a natural disaster, life can intensely challenge our resilience.

In Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster (New World Library, October 2, 2018), author and psychotherapist Linda Graham, MFT, guides readers step by step through a process of cultivating more well-being in their lives by strengthening their resilience so that they can respond skillfully to any upset or catastrophe that would derail that well-being. We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.

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Sometimes your thoughts can drive you crazy, blocking clear thinking and impeding response flexibility. Sometimes your thoughts trigger further thoughts, evaluations, judgments, and condemnations that reduce your resilience. These thought patterns are ways of filtering reality that can be counterproductive.

You can learn to work mindfully with your thoughts, and with all the amazing, creative, dazzling constructs of your default network mode, especially when those constructs turn dark or constricting, so that you can also experience their coming and going. Even your deeply held beliefs about the truth of the way things are can shift. And you can come to understand the processes of your brain that create, install, and defend those constructs to the death.

Here’s a list of common thought processes that human beings use to filter their experience.

  1. Assumptions: We learn from past experience, and based on that experience we sometimes think we know more than we know. We filter our perceptions of reality through those assumptions rather than seeing clearly what is actually true or needed now.
  2. Projections: We assume that what we have learned is true for ourselves is true for other people as well. We project our assumptions onto them, usually without their knowledge or permission, abandoning theory of mind.
  3. Objectification: We lose the sense of ourselves or another person as an active agent of changing experience. Instead we see ourselves (and others) as an object, a thing, an “It” at the mercy of external events and other people’s choices, powerless to change our experience (or our responses to it).
  4. Mind reading: We presume we know what another person is thinking, feeling, or needing without empathically checking with them. Or we may presume that the other person already knows what we think or need without bothering to tell them directly: “If you loved me, you would know how I feel.”
  5. Discounting the positive: We fail to register positive traits in ourselves or in others, belittling ourselves, devaluing others, and deflecting or neglecting appreciation in either direction.
  6. Overgeneralizing: We may exaggerate attributes of an experience, perceiving things as global and pervasive, applying to everything and everybody; we see things as “always” or “never.” We may take things personally whether or not that’s true or relevant, seeing things as permanent and unchanging. (This overgeneralizing is known as the three Ps: pervasive, personal, permanent.)
  7. Catastrophizing: We may immediately assume the worst: if we sneeze, we assume we’re catching a cold, which means missing work for three weeks, which means losing the job, which means losing our home — from sniffle to disaster in less than three seconds.
  8. Black-and-white thinking: We see everything in categorical terms, with no shades of gray, few options, and no possibilities of compromise. This rigidity in thinking, which can lead to a serious derailing of response flexibility, is also known as neural cement.
  9. Inability to disconfirm: We are so rigid in our opinions that no new information can change them.

You may recognize similar patterns in your thinking.

Exercise: Identifying Thought Processes That Derail Resilience

  1. Review the list above. Identify any of these patterns you recognize as operational in you or in people you know, without attaching any shame or blame. For now, simply acknowledge any patterns you identify that you might want to rewire later.
  2. Pick one pattern relevant to you that you’re willing to investigate; it need not be the one that is most difficult for you.
  3. Track this pattern in your thinking for a week. Notice when this pattern is operating in your thinking; notice when it’s not.

Becoming aware of your common patterns of perceiving and responding, and acknowledging them in your conscious awareness, is essential if you want to rewire them. Steadying your awareness with more and more difficult objects of awareness is reflective resilience.

Mental constructs can be very stable and long-lasting, more like the climate you live in than the weather that changes from day to day. Emotions that might flit through your awareness in a matter of minutes or half a day (weather) can settle into a longer-lasting mood (climate). The moods we deem negative — depression, discouragement, despair — are the ones we’re more likely to notice and want to shift than the lighter-hearted moods of joy or contentment.

As human beings, we adopt roles, preferences, priorities, and goals that filter our perceptions and shape our responses over long periods of time. We prioritize family over work, or work over family, based on deeply held values and convictions. We construct entire philosophies of living, belief systems, and identities that filter our perceptions and response to reality. Formulating values to live by is part of resilience: they are part of a moral compass that guides our life choices. But locking ourselves into values that cannot be changed in response to new experiences is not resilient.

At this stage of new conditioning, you’re simply training your awareness to realize that any thought is a product of the processes of your brain, and thus any thought can change. Entire patterns of thought, no matter how complex, can change. Roles, preference, priorities, and even entire belief systems can change over time — and they do.

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Linda Graham, MFT, is the author of Resilience and also Bouncing Back, the winner of a 2013 Books for a Better Life Award. She is an experienced psychotherapist who integrates modern neuroscience, mindfulness practices, and relational psychology in her international trainings on resilience and well-being. Visit her online at www.lindagraham-mft.net.

 

Excerpted from the book Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster. Copyright ©2018 by Linda Graham. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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10 Sep

To Find the Love of Your Life, Know Your Dosha!

Ask anyone and you’ll get the same answer: What’s the most important thing in life? Love! We want to be in love, and we want that love to last. So how do we go about finding that one person to share our lives with? And how do we live happily ever after with that person once we find him or her?

There are many ways of looking at our compatibility with other people – such as the Mars/Venus theories, and the Love Signs system based on astrology, among others. But long before any of these formulas were even a twinkle in the cosmos, philosophers and scientists in Ancient India devised a system of health care called “Ayurveda” – or “the science of life.” Within this holistic system lies everything we need to know about love.

Ayurveda explains the nature of everything in the universe. It is a compelling way of looking at all of life, the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Ayurveda “types” people according to both their physical features and personality traits. Ayurveda tells us how we “tick,” and how we relate to the rest of the world, including the other people in it!

Once we understand the basics of Ayurveda, we see that we can get along with anyone. There are no “bad” matches! So whether you want to end the squabbling with your mate, you’re having a hard time with your boss, or your boyfriend just can’t commit, with this system of Ancient Indian Love Matches, you’ll find ways to make the relationship work.

It is impossible to go through this life alone. We all have relationships, people in our lives to interact with. The purpose of those relationships is to help us learn and grow. And more than that, the purpose of any relationship is to help us learn more about ourselves and who we really are.

When we understand who we are, and why we are here, everything seems to fall into place. We’re happier, more content, and we feel our connection to the universe. We attract like-minded people into our lives and our relationships become stronger.

As important as our relationships are to us, how much time and effort do we really put into them? So often we go about living our lives and expect that another person either fits into that picture or doesn’t. But we each have needs, and temperaments, and ideas about how we like things to be. When we better understand ourselves, and each other, we can focus on what is important, and what makes a relationship work.

When I first learned about Ayurveda, I was impressed with how simple and clear it made everything to me. The whole system just makes sense, and you can apply it to anything in your life! I’ve read lots of books about Ayurveda, and even more books on relationships, but I’ve never come across one book that applied this age-old system to our very modern-day relationships. So I decided to work it out myself, and that is how my book, “What’s Your Dosha, Baby? Discover the Vedic Way for Compatibility in Life and Love” came about.

Because Ayurveda sees people as three different mind/body types, or “doshas,” there are basically nine different “Love Matches” (3 x 3). Of course in reality there are an infinite number of combinations, because no two people are exactly alike in any particular way, but we’re keeping the numbers manageable here! Once you find out your particular dosha (free online quiz at www.whatsyourdosha.com), and the dosha of the person with whom you are in relationship, then you can look up the chapter that corresponds to the two of you. Here you’ll find clues as to how you interact with each other, your communication styles (physical and emotional as well), instinctual preferences with regards to food, travel, lifestyle and work among others. This system shows us how we can please each other and ourselves at the same time. It shows us how we can live in harmony with those around us by recognizing a person’s natural qualities and bringing more love into the world

If you are looking to understand or strengthen a relationship with someone other than your mate – say, a colleague or friend or child – it will help you with that, too. And because we all have a unique relationship with our environment, there are principles called “Vastu” we can use. Through our use of space and color, we can create an environment where we feel inspired and blissful.

Love is an amazing phenomenon, and the reason that all of us are here. It’s worth our study, our attention. Why are we attracted to the people we are attracted to? Why is that we feel as if we “can’t help” who we fall in love with? What is the chemistry that draws us to certain people?

We may never figure ourselves out. Or maybe we already have. Maybe the ancient texts are right and all the answers we will ever need are available to us now… we just need to keep learning and growing until we finally “get it.”

One thing’s for sure, finding love and connection is one of the most important – and pleasurable – things we come here to do. My hope is that Ayurveda, with its ancient Indian secrets for keeping love burning bright, will not only help you in your process of self-discovery but enable you to find and nourish the love matches of your dreams.

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30 Jul

The Cost of Kindness

The world is in pain. We are feeling the effects of crisis on every level; we are suffering. In this condition, when we feel weak, it’s almost a knee-jerk reaction to fight, to lash out, to argue, accuse, bully, complain, and blame. But that only creates more suffering. And so it goes, and has been going, over centuries. But this doesn’t have to be the human condition. We have choices. And by now we really do need to know better, and choose differently.

 

Sometime around 30 BC Hillel said “If not now, when?” Now is the time that we need to dig deep within us, to find the courage and make the changes we need to make in order to survive. Indeed, our very survival is at stake. Our brothers and sisters are giving years of their lives, if not their very lives, in wars. Our children are killing themselves to escape being tormented by their peers for what are perceived to be their differences. The cost of war, economically and personally is horrendous. The cost of hate, violence, and intolerance is just as bad. We have to stop the bleeding, and we have to heal.

 

It doesn’t have to take an act of Congress to make a change. It only takes an act of kindness, or many little acts of kindness that all add up to getting our priorities straight. We need to shift from focusing on the material, on the “stuff” in life, and instead focus on people and relationships. We need to pay attention, to be receptive, to be honest and to show that we care. Kindness is a virtue that we need to cultivate and value. It is the salve for our wounds. It is the medicine for our dis-ease. We need to invest our time and energy into programs that promote kindness. This will pay off for us in the long run.

There are many organizations making a conscious effort to practice and promote kindness in our communities. One group is Big Brothers Big Sisters. Youth who are identified as “at-risk” are brought into the program and matched with a mentor. A Public/Private Ventures study shows that children matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister, as compared to their peers, are 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 52% less likely to skip school, and one-third less likely to hit someone. The financial cost to support a match is just $1m200 per year. Contrast that with the cost to incarcerate a youth in Juvenile Hall at $125,000 per year. Mentors in this program are volunteers, and most will tell you that as much as they see that the youth are getting out of the program, they feel that the benefits are mutual.

 

“Karuna” is a Sanskrit word that means “compassionate action.” It refers to any action that is taken to diminish the suffering of another. As we help others, as we extend kindness, we all benefit. By serving each other we are serving ourselves. “Metta” is a Pali word that means loving-kindness, benevolence, fellowship, goodwill, and friendliness. Metta is the strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others. It is an attitude of altruism.

 

There is no cost to kindness. A smile, a word of thanks, a good deed, a friendly gesture — there is no cost to these things, and yet the benefits are priceless.

 

Ellen DeGeneres is now signing off her show with the statement: “Be kind to one another.” I heard that and was inspired. We all have to do our part. We need to be ever mindful that kindness must be practiced and demonstrated. To help with this I created “The Kindness Movement.” It’s a simple commitment of seven days of putting kindness into action. It costs nothing to join The Kindness Movement. And it is very likely that as the movement spreads the benefits will be far-reaching. The Internet holds that power, as it is an illustration of our interconnection.

We are all in this together. The time to recognize our connection to each other, and to be kind to one another, is at hand. It all starts right here, right now. Please join us in The Kindness Movement. Thank you for your kindness.

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25 Jun

Kim & Kris Krash & Burn: What Went Wrong?

We should have seen it coming. But then, I think we all did. Did Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries ever look blissfully happy, at the same time, on their reality show? Not from what I could see. They had their issues from the very beginning, and yet they chose to look the other way. This is typical when you get two Kapha types together, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

In Ayurveda, India’s 5,000-year-old “science of life,” there are three doshas, or mind/body types: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. When you know your dosha, and the dosha of your potential partner, you can gauge your compatibility. This information helps you to look at the strengths and challenges that you will have in the relationship, so that you can move forward knowing what you need to know.

Both Kim and Kris are Kapha dosha dominant. You can tell physically by the thick hair, big lips, sturdy body frame. And you can tell by their personalities as well. Kaphas are home-bodies, with a devotion to family and a loyalty to friends. Kaphas are kind, sensitive and caring. Ironically, while these are all traits that attracted Kim and Kris to each other, they are the very traits that likely broke them apart.

Being kind and sensitive are wonderful traits to have — but not when it means you avoid conflict at all cost. There are some things that need to be discussed before you walk down the aisle. Things like: where are we going to live? Whenever this was brought up on their reality show, it was clear that Kris wanted to live a more normal life away from the cameras near his family in Minnesota, and that Kim wanted to stay near her family, and career opportunities, in Los Angeles. Nothing was ever resolved on camera, so it is likely that nothing was ever resolved in “real” life, either.

Kaphas are very set in their ways. This is true for both Kim and Kris. Kim is a self-professed “neat freak” who really could be diagnosed as obsessive compulsive when it comes to order around the house. Kris considers his dogs to be his children, and wants them around all the time, including on the bed at night. How to reconcile these two lifestyles? On the show, it seems the two reached an impasse. They both dug in their feet, and then the dogs went back to Minnesota and we didn’t hear anything more about it.

Kaphas can be childlike and playful. On the show, Kim would say that she liked how Kris acted like a little kid in his excitement. She actually laughed when he burped in her face. But then she would get frustrated at his lack of attention to details and his sloppiness. Kim could be just as childlike, wanting the wedding to be her way, and not validating Kris’s input. When two Kaphas get together, it is important that both partners behave like adults when necessary. When one partner acts like an adult and the other doesn’t, then the role-play is more parent/child than equals, and then resentment is bound to build.

The impulsiveness of both the quick engagement and the wedding is out of character for Kapha types. It is as if they felt pressure to perform, to put on a show, for the camera. And once the decision was made, they spent the rest of their time planning a wedding, rather than planning a marriage. They seemed to both be swept up in the glamor and glitz of the wedding, and they didn’t give their relationship a chance to get past the romance stage. Couples need time together — both quality time and quantity time. They need to successfully get past conflicts together, and it’s hard to do that with cameras around all the time.

Now that papers have officially been filed, it seems the couple still can’t agree. Kim’s issued statement was that “things don’t always work out as planned.” Kris was surprised that papers were filed and has said that he will do whatever it takes to make the marriage work. California is a no-fault divorce state, so even if Kris doesn’t want the divorce, it can still happen.

What is troubling for the rest of us is the implied disposability of marriage. For all of the professing about how important this relationship was to her, how it was forever, why didn’t Kim and Kris seek marriage counseling? America feels duped! We feel like we were sold a bill of goods, on national television, on the covers of magazines. Online people are calling the marriage a sham, and the wedding a publicity stunt. This wedding was a reportedly $10 million party that netted the couple a nice chunk of change from endorsement deals, not to mention all the gifts they got. Shouldn’t they be returning those gifts now? Or donating the proceeds to charity? It all seems like such a waste. With the economy the way it is, people hurting financially, whole countries going bankrupt and children starving, how does anyone justify spending that kind of money?

A lavish $10 million wedding does not guarantee a happy marriage. Was it telling that Kim appeared solo on the cover of People magazine, beaming about her “dream wedding?” Is it a coincidence that Kim filed divorce papers the day before her mother’s book hits stores?

It takes six months for a divorce to be finalized in California. So the legal process, even with a pre-nup, will last longer than the 72-day marriage. We’re sure to be hearing a lot more about this. And that’s sad. Not sad for this couple, who will surely bounce back, but sad for the rest of us. There are so many more important things we could be putting our attention towards.

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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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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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27 May

3 Simple Steps For Adapting To Constant Change.

“Adapt or perish”.

Have you heard that before?

It is said that the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. Well, let’s add another one – constant change.

Change is an inevitable part of our existence. Almost every aspect of your life will go through some form of change. Those of us in western societies witness change on a constant basis. Some changes are constructive, some are not. The key is to know how to handle change in a way that the perceived outcome will be constructive. That’s right, you may not be able to control what has changed. You can however, control what the perceived outcome of the change will be.

As I progress through my Diploma Of Counselling, I have realised that many people seek support from a counsellor due to changes in their lives. Some common life changes include developing relationships, ending relationships, moving to a new house, moving to new cities, having children, negotiating adolescence, children leaving home, and retiring.

When I was an Executive Coach, there was no shortage of clients who were continually grappling with changes in their respective organisations. They were not alone in this. Anyone who works for a medium to large organisation will be subjected to changes in the workplace.

Here are 3 steps to productively adapting to change, that I have learnt through experience and qualification:

  1. Reframe – look at it from another perspective. Sometimes we view change from the inside out. One of the most profound life lessons I have learnt is this – We must step away from our problems, and look at our problems instead of being in our problems. Ask yourself “What will it show me if I looked at this from an external perspective?”  In other words, if I looked at this from the outside in, what will I see? What will this tell me? Perhaps it is an opportunity for growth (personal and professional). Maybe this is a good time to take an inventory of your skills, talents, and abilities. Could it be that this change will lead you to something better that you might not have considered earlier? Reframing has two benefits. One – it allows you to look at the holistic picture, not just a one-sided view. Two – reframing will support you in exploring other avenues of handling that change. For example, if you have been made redundant, and have been given a pay-out, some of those funds could be used to upskill yourself by gaining a qualification that you may have been contemplating for a long time. Reframing has the power to balance things out. Enlist the help of someone close to you (if you have to), in order to reframe.
  2. Refocus – what I noticed through my coaching and mentoring career was that some people are fixated on a particular outcome when it comes to handling change. If they don’t get that outcome, they tend to get disappointed. Your goal should be to focus on what you can control. Yes, we will always be at the mercy of external forces (both positive and negative). At the risk of sounding religious, I will quote American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr – “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”. Once you begin to focus on what you can control and what you can do, a sense of empowerment will be gained. Helplessness which is an emotionally paralysing feeling will be experienced once you start to feel that you are totally not in control of what is happening. Focus on your strengths, your previous proven plans of handling change, and do the best you can with the best you have!
  3. Remind – remind yourself that change will keep occurring. It is as sure as sunrise. This is where acceptance plays an integral role. I have written about this many times – “Acceptance empowers you to be more responsible and to take productive action”.  Author and columnist Corine Gatti said “Approach change as a process and be ready to move at your own pace”. She has hit the nail on the head by saying that it is a process. Accept that process. Work within the process, and find strength through acceptance. Another very enlightening quote on acceptance while handling change comes from Joseph Campbell – “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us”. If you are finding it challenging to embrace acceptance, then make a list of what the pros and cons will be if you created more acceptance regarding the change.

Quote: “In this day and age of fast paced living and constant change, you have to think outside the square. If you don’t, your thinking will suffocate inside the square.”  R. Prasad

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can adapt to constant change.

Influencing you to your excellence,
Ron 

PS: My Anti-Bullying Charity’s latest short video addresses a question – “Another Important Tip For Parents” – https://youtu.be/YhqvUnI4_7o

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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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27 Apr

Expectations – How Well Do You Handle Them?

Do you have expectations of anyone in your life?

Do others in your life have expectations of you?

Do you have certain expectations of yourself?

Today, we will look at some (not all) aspects of expectations. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines expectation as “The act or state of expecting”.

For the purposes of this article, let’s focus on expectations on a person-to-person basis.

First, let’s break it down into two common types of expectations:

  1. Realistic expectations – these are what reasonable people would put in place on a person-to-person basis. These types of expectations are those that operate on a common sense basis. An example would be a teacher at a school, having a duty of care toward their student. The parents of the students have an expectation of this teacher to provide their child with formal education. Another example could be domestic duties that are shared. A husband could do the washing while the wife is preparing lunch. With realistic expectations, there is a mutual understanding between the two parties. There are lesser chances of conflict in realistic expectations, when communicated properly.
  2. Unrealistic expectations – this is where conflicts can arise. To avoid this happening, please ask yourself the following questions:
  • Are you projecting your values upon someone else? For example, a father of a teenage boy might want his son to study for 3 hours each night after school. Why? That is what he did when he was a boy at school.
  • Does the person you are expecting from have the time or resources required to meet this commitment? – For example, a manager asking their staff member to do something that the staff member is not capable of. Or, the staff member does not have the resources required to complete the task.
  • Are you seeing others as capable as you are? – Tony Robbins wrote something very emphatic. He said “In a relationship, never expect your partner to have your strengths”. That is very liberating advice indeed!

Here are a few suggestions for you, regarding expectations:

  • Keep your expectations realistic – by doing so, you will be less likely to be disappointed. Ask yourself “Is this fair on the other person? Why? Why not?”
  • Have empathy for others – I have written this before, and I will say it again – “Empathy is a very powerful projection tool because it allows us to be more human”. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person. See the expectation from their frame of reference.
  • Communicate openly – if you have expectations of someone, communicate your expectation to them, and ask for genuine feedback. That way, you both will learn, and lessen the likelihood of conflict.
  • Communicate openly again – if someone has expectations of you, communicate your thoughts/feelings/concerns to them openly and diplomatically. This is very important in personal relationships and at work (especially between manager and subordinate). When I was delivering Corporate Coaching, there were many clients who believed that their manager had unrealistic expectations. Yet, they never openly communicated their belief to the manager. Conflict became almost unavoidable.
  • Create confidence – if you have a realistic expectation of someone, communicate your confidence to them. This will be a massive morale booster for them. For example, if a sports coach has an expectation of the team captain to lead by example, something along the lines of “I know what a strong leader you are, and the whole team looks up to you for your leadership skills and strength”  would do wonders for the team captain’s confidence.

Dr Michael Broder (author of the best-seller Stage Climbing) who is a friend/mentor of mine, wrote something very enlightening about expectations:

Sometimes, expectations can be perfectly healthy metrics for making sense of your world. But expectations are also premeditated disappointments! So should you find yourself feeling disappointed, dissatisfied or stressed out, reflect first on your expectations — especially those predictably unrealistic ones you may be putting on yourself and others in your life. The good news is that changing your expectations is practically always doable. In fact, it’s often the only part of a given situation that you can reliably control.

Dr Broder is spot on in saying that you can control your expectations.

Whether you have expectations of others or others have expectations of you, there is a lot you can do to make life easier for both parties.

Remember, communicating openly can create a level playing field!

Quote: “Turn your expectations into appreciation.” Tony Robbins

I sincerely hope that you have gained a simple insight into how you can handle expectations (both ways) in a more productive manner.

Influencing you to your excellence,
Ron 

PS: My Anti-Bullying Charity’s latest short video celebrates a massive milestone (Episode number 50) – https://youtu.be/U4uVI3KKTlY

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16 Apr

Life Lessons Learned From Salsa

Summer 2014 will go down in my personal history as the “Summer of Salsa!” I’ve spent the past seven weeks going from 0 to 60 in learning this particular style of Latin dance, and I’ve loved every minute of it!

This all came about because of the Oxnard Salsa Festival, held every year near my hometown. As a part of the festivities, they hold a “Dancing With the Community Stars” Salsa competition. Community “stars” are matched up with seasoned professional dancers and then the pair comes up with a dance routine to perform at the Festival. All of this helps local charities raise money as the charities campaign for their stars through the various events. Of course, when I found out about this, I loved the idea, and was thrilled to take up the challenge! So I’m dancing for my favorite nonprofit organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County.

My partner, Lovie Hernandez, has years of experience and his own studio in Santa Paula. Before meeting him I had never danced a step of Salsa in my life — wouldn’t even know where to start. The two of us hit it off quickly as we were faced with the same goal: get this girl dancing and win the contest!

With Lovie’s background and teaching experience, I knew that, despite my awkwardness, that somehow he’d get me to looking at least a little bit like a Salsa dancer. But what I didn’t know is that Lovie would become my own personal Yoda, sharing with me the wisdom of the Salsa philosophy. While I learned to dance, what surprised me is how much I learned about life through this whole experience. Over the course of our time together I got some great takeaways and I want to share them with you.

— Mix it up. Salsa dancing is actually a mix of different styles from different countries. That’s how it got its name, after the famous spicy salsa dip that’s made out of a mix of different ingredients. Mixing things up to create something new is a good thing! The combination as a whole can be absolutely amazing. Life is like that. We don’t always have to stick to a formula, we can try things out to see what we like, what works. Whether it’s adding new elements to a recipe or a dance or anything, we can always be unique in our self-expression.

— Dancing is communication without words. Lovie says this over and over again. And it’s absolutely true! The body is an instrument, and partners can tell when either one is nervous, unsure, tired, or distracted. You don’t have to say a word, it comes through in the way you move. Relationships are like that, too. We learn to read our partners such that a sigh or the twitch of an eyebrow speaks volumes. We go through a dance with everyone we meet, but those who really know us can sense when something is amiss. The body just doesn’t lie.

— Take your time. Every one of us is going to have our own pace. We can’t compare ourselves to other dancers, or other people. We need to be patient, and gentle with ourselves. Just do your best and trust in the process. When we keep going, we eventually get there. There are many paths to any destination. Once I took Lovie’s advice and was easier on myself, I could enjoy the dance so much more.

— Be in the moment. Choreography is like following a map. You know where you’re going, but you can’t focus on that end goal, you have to be present for every step along the way. If you race ahead, or have your head in the next move rather than the current move, the whole thing is going to fall apart. Not that you can’t recover! A good partner, like Lovie, can help you get back on track. We don’t even realize how much we’re missing out on in life when we’re not paying attention. Be mindful, pay attention, and you’ll be surprised at what you can do.

— Trust your partner. I knew I could trust Lovie from the first moment I met him. We were posing for a photo, and he asked me if we should do a dip. I gave an enthusiastic “yes!” and he proceeded to turn me heels over head. Literally. What fun! I knew that Lovie was strong, and would not let me fall no matter what. When Lovie says “look at me” during our dance, it’s a reminder to me to “spot” so that I don’t get dizzy. At the same time, it’s a reminder to me that we’re a team in this thing, and he’s got my back.

— Keep your eye on the prize. From the very beginning, our motto has been that we are “in it to win it!” And it’s definitely been our goal to win this competition and make as big a splash as possible for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I hope we do win, but I know that all of the other dancers have also put in their work and want to win as well! Now that I’ve been through all this training, spent so much time, sweat, and energy working on this dance, I realize that I already have gained much more than any win. The real prize is the new-found knowledge and skills that I now have. The real prize is all the wonderful people I’ve met who have share my enthusiasm. The real prize is my terrific new friend, a dancer and philosopher who has taught me so much.

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