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05 Jan

The gift of good health

jeff-williams-2016-holidayThe other day someone asked me what my favorite gift was this holiday season.  I didn’t hesitate to say, “The gift of good health for both my husband and me!”

A few years ago my husband was diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease, having blockage in 3 main arteries and his cholesterol was off the graph. Obviously, his physicians wanted him to take meds, which he did for a short period of time.

We played with diets:  raw, vegetarian, paleo, we even considered starvation!  LOL..  (Well he did, I didn’t.  I have a hard time fasting for more than a few hours!)  Nothing really worked, nothing was very satisfying.

Then we watched a movie, Cowspiracy.  It was a wake up call for both of us on many levels.  We began a 100% Plant Based diet.  Wait, let me say a 100% Planet Based Lifestyle because it has been more than just a diet.  It’s our way of living. No, it wasn’t easy at first. In fact, I’ve mentioned before that it was such a radical change I verged on being depressed. There was much to “relearn”.

Here’s the gift.  Last month we both had our blood work done and he had a physical. All of our numbers are perfect!  Absolutely perfect!  As I continue to work through a few health issues unrelated to that blood work, I am quite confident that this #vegan lifestyle is healing my life.

To his resident in training his doctor said, “Jeff was my worst patient.  His cholesterol was one of the worst I’d seen in someone his age.  He and his wife went on a vegan diet and now he has the best I’ve seen.  He healed himself with a vegan diet!”  (And that doctor is NOT a vegan.)

The gift of good health – there’s no better gift to give yourself or your family.

Happy New Year!

P.S.  If you are looking to embrace a Planet Based Lifestyle and need support, send me a message through my contact page.  I’d be happy to send you my 10 easy tips choosing plants.

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02 Jan

Using Affirmations to Discover the Joys in Your Life

Affirmations are simple statements we can use to improve our self-esteem, help us reach a goal, break a bad habit, find love, or even discover joy in our lives. Positive affirmations work hand in hand with our subconscious to make lasting changes for the better.

Many times we may already experience joy, but we don’t know celebrate it enough. Sadly, at other times, we aren’t even aware that it’s present. Positive affirmations can help you rediscover that joy, peace, health, and happiness!

Here are some examples of positive affirmations and how they can improve your life:

1.    “I’m worth it!” This positive affirmation tells us that we’re deserving of being happy. If you’re feeling dejected or worthless, this affirmation can work wonders.

⦁    By using this affirmation on a consistent basis and coupling it with an open heart, you’ll see results. You’ll realize that you’re more than deserving of happiness and joy.

2.    “I go with the flow and my life is easy and filled with happiness.” Are you feeling stuck in rut or completely stressed out? This is an effective positive affirmation that helps you to release all that tension.

⦁    This affirmation helps you rid your mind of negativity so the joy that’s present can shine through.

3.    “I see the beauty in my surroundings and I radiate love and joy.” This positive affirmation will help you to notice all that’s beautiful in this world. It will also teach you how to spread love and joy to those around you.

⦁    You can enjoy everything this world has to offer; all you have to do is give yourself permission to celebrate!

4.    “I now choose thoughts that nourish and support me in a loving manner.” This will tell your subconscious that you’re serious and you want to make good, positive changes in your life.

⦁    This affirmation helps you open your mind to constructive thoughts so you can celebrate all the joys that life has to offer you.

5.    “I can relax and accept the good that I know I deserve in my life.” This is a positive affirmation that will help with your stress and patience.

⦁    No matter how long it may take, you can be confident that only good things await you.
⦁    Even though you may be completely stressed out, this affirmation will help you to relax and slow down.

6.    “I take time regularly to do the things that I love to do; I follow my heart and I am happy.” This positive affirmation celebrates someone very important – you! You take the time to make yourself a priority and you’re an active player in your life!

⦁    To be happy is extremely important and joy will follow you wherever you go when you recite this affirmation frequently.

Joy is essential and our lives should be filled with it. Positive affirmations allow us to refocus our lives to a point where we can be happy again. Practice positive affirmations on a regular basis and celebrate all the joy that this life has to offer!

I hope you enjoyed this article.  Have a beautiful week filled with love and light, Barbara

www.BarbaraSavin.com
BarbaraESavin@aol.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MotivateYourLifeWithBarbara/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BarbaraSavin

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27 Dec

How To Deal With Exposure To Negativity.

In the previous article (titled Worrying – The Truth About It), we discussed the negativity that we are exposed to on a daily basis.

To be precise, I suggested “Switch off from the media – the Black Eyed Peas said “Wrong information always shown by the media. Negative images is the main criteria.” Regardless of how positive or optimistic you are, your mindset will become what you feed it.”

After receiving feedback from more than a dozen readers about how they resonated with that suggestion, I decided to elaborate on how to productively handle daily exposure to negativity.

In an article on Mindfulness, by Kerry Song, she mentioned:
“British psychologist, Dr. Graham Davey, told the Huffington Post that exposure to negative and violent media could actually have long-lasting psychological effects. In fact, Davey maintains that “viewing negative news means that you’re likely to see your own personal worries as more threatening and severe, and when you do start worrying about them, you’re more likely to find your worry difficult to control and more distressing than it would normally be.””

Sadly, negative news is more popular and it gets more attention.

How do we productively deal with constant exposure to negativity?

Here are 3 suggestions:

  1. Proactively engage yourself with happy stories – there is no shortage of happy stories out there. It’s just that we are more exposed to the negative ones. Let me share an example with you. As a speaker and writer in the Animal Rights movement, I often get contacted by people who are disturbed by the amount of animal cruelty in the world. One lady contacted me via email after watching a video clip about how leather is made. She saw cows being forced to walk for hundreds or kilometres, being beaten, and then being slaughtered without stunning. She was absolutely fuming and cried afterward. My first suggestion to her was to watch a happy story about an animal rescue, which she did. That made her happy and restored some faith in humanity.  She did research and found a charity that rescues cows from the leather industry, and was relieved to see many cows living a happy life after being rescued. My second suggestion was to turn that anger into a productive force – do something to help these poor cows. She donated money to that charity that rescues cows from the leather industry, she shared that video clip with her family/friends, and promised to never buy leather products again. Her commitment to me was to watch happy animal rescue stories each day for the next 30 days. She felt more empowered (instead of angered), and used that empowerment to help more animals. Please purposefully engage yourself with happy stories.

    2. Focus on what you can control – while you or I might not be able to bring world peace in the next 24 hours, there are many other things that we can do to make society a more liveable place. If you start constantly worrying about the state of affairs between certain nations, or the spike in crime rates in a particular city, or the number of kids dying each day through starvation, your focus will bring more negativity into your mental and emotional states. That will not be productive. Do something that is productive. If you are concerned about world hunger, then maybe you could volunteer at a soup kitchen that feeds the homeless in your city. The point is – you always have the liberty to do something even though it might seem like it is on a small scale.  Whenever you are exposed to negativity in the media, remind yourself that there are certain things that are beyond your control, and that you are better off in choosing to focus on things that you can do.

    3. Become more self-aware – learn to recognise your emotions as they surface, and what they are triggered by. If you get very angry and say “I hate humans” every time you see a violation of human rights on TV, you know that anger (in this case) was a by-product of your exposure to a violation of human rights. The trigger and the effect are clear. Whenever you are exposed to similar stories in the future, quickly remind yourself that you are about to get very angry. Then, put a strategy in place to overcome that anger. It could be as simple as getting up and going for a short walk, taking a few deep breaths, or looking at a picture of something that will make you smile (a photo of your children, your dog, or your cat). The more self-aware you are, the lesser the impacts of negativity in the media will be on you. Please remember, humans have a negativity bias (this has been proven over and over again). Hence, it is your duty to feed yourself less negativity, and more happy stories.

    My call to action for you is:

  • Every day, make a conscious effort to expose yourself to happy stories.
  • Share those happy stories with people around you. The world needs more happiness.

Quote: “There are a lot of pros and cons about media; it’s just how you choose to handle it and how you have to be prepared for the negatives as well.”  Aubrey Peeples

The choice to deal with constant exposure to negativity is in your hands. You can allow it to sadden you and anger you, or you can choose to focus on the good things that are happening in the world, and use that as a driving force to do more good yourself.

Influencing you towards your excellence,
Ron

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19 Dec

Seeking Greater Happiness? This Research Might Surprise You

Over the last few years, there have been some fascinating studies done to determine what makes people happy. If you’re wondering how you could increase your happiness, here are some strategies suggested by the research:

 

  1. Give to others more often. Research indicates that people who give even a small amount of money, even just $5, are happier than those who spend money only on themselves.
  • Even more fascinating is that when researchers evaluated how people who buy for themselves feel, it was discovered that purchasing new items had no real effect on one’s happiness.
  • Maybe the reason you want to go shopping all the time is that, no matter what you buy or how much, it’s not really doing anything for you. Buying things doesn’t actually make you happy.
  1. Have children after you’re married. Another unexpected fact discovered in the research is that having children did actually pump up happiness, at least if you’re married. In terms of gender, a married father’s happiness increased less than a married mother’s.
  2. When you’re younger, go for excitement and adventure. Young people often reported their definition of happiness as “excitement.”
  3. As you age, strive for peacefulness. As individuals age, they indicate that happiness means having a “peaceful” life.
  4. Get some exercise. A Harvard study looked at people in their 50s and found that those who exercised regularly were happier when re-evaluated again at age 80 than those who didn’t exercise.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight. In the same Harvard study, weight was also a factor that could either make or break your level of happiness. Those who are overweight or underweight experience less happiness than those who keep their weight in the average range.
  6. Spend time often with your best friend. Go out and do things with your friends frequently or just hang out together. Having strong social supports will increase your happiness. Go ahead and call them right now for an immediate boost to your mood.
  7. According to the National Institute of Health, those who meditate regularly improve levels of happiness indirectly by increasing character traits that contribute to happiness, such as conscientiousness and empathy.
  8. Experience more and buy less. Another fascinating take away from the research is that you’ll be happier from having more experiences in life than you will from having more material goods.
  • Research indicates that people feel happier about their memories of events than they do about a recent purchase. After all, how often can you say to yourself ten years after buying something, “Wow, that new sweater really changed my life!” A canoe trip with your friends, on the other hand, is bound to create some great memories!

 

  1. Engage in activities that make you happy. Regardless of what others tell you about how to spend your time, if you take part in activities of your own choosing, you’ll be happier. Think about your friend who says, “Cleaning my house makes me happy. I really enjoy doing it.” You might have said, “Ugh, are you kidding?” The key is to do what you enjoy.
  • If you’re curious about acting in a play, take a local acting class. If you’ve always wanted to grab a pair of binoculars and go to the closest national park to go bird-watching, do it.
  • When you do all the things that spur your interests and satisfy your curiosities, or things that simply make your heart sing, you’ll feel happier.

This newest research regarding what makes people happy might help you in your own quest. Take advantage of the information presented here and increase your happiness. Go ahead, make someone happy: you!

 

I hope you enjoyed this article.  Have a beautiful week filled with love and light, Barbara

www.BarbaraSavin.com

BarbaraESavin@aol.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MotivateYourLifeWithBarbara/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BarbaraSavin

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05 Dec

In The Spirit Of Giving, Offer A Peaceful Respite To Those Who Need It Most This Holiday

Guest post by Kim Weiss

inkspirations-recoveryThe trend this holiday season is all about ‘giving’ – not another ugly Christmas sweater, but something meaningful like a donation in the name of a family member or friend. Here’s a novel idea; give adult coloring books to a worthwhile group and put smiles on many faces! The beautiful Inkspirations series of adult coloring books from HCI has something for everyone – from Gardening and Pets, to Recovery and Christmas Joy – even postcards and greeting cards!  To help make this a truly “giving” holiday, donate coloring books to your favorite charity, hospital, homeless or women’s shelter, where some extra moments of peace and encouraged wellness would be welcomed.

 

Bringing a little peace and joy to someone is what the holidays are all about; something to help quiet the mind and

ease the soul. From HCI, the original publishers of Chicken Soup for the Soul, now comes a line of adult coloring books ready to encourage, inspire, and help worries fade. Art therapy has long proven its effects as an aid in emotional and mental restoration, and it is not news that coloring as active meditation reduces stress and quiets

coloring-page

Example of coloring page.

thoughts. Inkspirations coloring books for adults offer a way to turn off negativity while healing the spirit.

 

With moving quotes alongside unique and graceful images, Inkspirations include a wide array of themes to help express creativity and enjoy therapy through coloring. To start overcoming heartache, releasing tensions, and building positive energy, readers can visit the new Inkspirations website.

 

The website is a reader’s portal to a more colorful world, giving a peek at the wide spread of unique pages Inkspirations has to offer.

inkspirations-createwait

On coloring lists now:

  • Inkspirations Create While You Wait

Create beautiful art wherever you are with this portable coloring book.  Next time you’re waiting—at the doctor’s office, in the airport, or on the bus—stop stressing and start creating! In today’s busy world, finding peace can be a challenge. Now, with this unique, compact coloring book, you can use those idle moments to foster your creativity and enjoy a sense of calm. Perfectly sized to fit into a purse, pack, or pocket, Create While You Wait will help you color your day brighter wherever you go. A special binding lets you lay the book flat, and the unique horizontal layout is perfect whether you’re left- or right-handed. So grab your colored pencils, crayons, markers or pen—and find your inner Zen. Created in conjunction with AARP, see more at www.aarp.org/coloringbooks.

 

 

  • inkspirations-christmasjoyInkspirations Christmas Joy

Christmas is a time of magic, and now you can color your season even brighter with more than thirty original, festive designs, plus 12 pages of DIY projects including color-your-own gift tags, postcards, wine tags and more! From highly detailed to fun and free-flowing, each design will deck your heart and home with the holiday spirit. Designs include: trees to make your own; winter wonderlands, polar bears and penguins; charming gingerbread houses, wreaths, and stockings; whimsical scenes of snowmen and ugly holiday sweaters; a Santa sighting or two, plus heartwarming expressions of holiday cheer written in exquisite typography.

 

  • Inkspirations for Dog Lovers

Dogs are our loyal, playful, energetic, goofy, and brave companions who color our lives with so much joy―now you can bring them to life on every page with this captivating compendium that celebrates the glory of canines throughout the seasons. From Boxers, Bulldogs, and Beagles, to Pomeranians, Poodles, and Pugs, to Shepherds, Shih Tzus, and Siberian Huskies, this eclectic mix of original artwork showcases the many ways in which dogs warm our hearts no matter the season. Whether it’s a spirited puppy romping through the first spring tulips, two Golden Retrievers sprinting against fiery autumn leaves, or a curious Lab leaving fresh paw prints in the winter snow, our furry friends color our world brighter every day. Inkspirations for Dog Lovers is a fitting tribute to the canine kingdom.

 

  • Inkspirations Fruit of the Spirit

In a world that’s not always black and white, it’s often challenging to put the fruit of the Spirit into practice, but this captivating coloring book offers an enjoyable way to quiet the chatter, tap into your creativity, and spend some reflective time with God. Stunning original art is paired with powerful Scriptures that eloquently embody the fruit of the Spirit, inviting you to immerse yourself in the meaning of the messages and cultivate them in everyday life. This is a perfect way to relax and unwind as you create beautiful works of art while rejoicing in the blessings of the Holy Spirit. Celebrate your faith in full color!

 

There’s even Inkspirations Greeting and Post Cards to personalize and send to someone or give as a gift.

 

Also see www.Inkspirations.com/shop for:

 

  • Inkspirations in the Garden
  • Inkspirations Animal Kingdom
  • Inkspirations for a Happy Heart
  • Inkspirations for Cat Lovers
  • Inkspirations for Women
  • Inkspirations for Recovery

 

 

For more information, please contact Kim Weiss at (800) 851-9100 ex. 9212, or kimw@hcibooks.com

 

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05 Dec

Fill Your Life With Happiness

Happiness is a funny thing. Many experts say that happiness comes from within. This may be true, but there are also specific experiences that make us happy.

Maybe having a great day at the park with your kids filled you with happiness. Or perhaps that promotion you’d been working for finally came to pass. Bet you felt happy then! However, you probably also know someone who seems happy all the time, even when things aren’t going well in their life.

So how can you have more of this elusive thing that comes both from within and from without? Luckily, there are specific things we can do to bring more happiness into our lives. We can also choose to remove things from our lives that may prevent happiness.

 

Try these ideas to simplify your life and focus more on doing what brings you real happiness:

  1. Unplug from email. Everyone loves to get email, as long as it isn’t spam. But the enjoyment is only temporary. Think about the amount of time you spend on email over the course of a week. Is all that time you’re spending making you happy?
  • Do what you can to eliminate the 95% of the email that means the least to you, and limit this communication tool to those people you care about the most. Just knowing that you don’t have email piling-up 24/7 provides some mental relief which will help make way for happiness.
  1. Ditch all the stuff. Go through your belongings one by one and purge the stuff that you don’t need or love. All the extra stuff is just getting in your way and tying up your resources. Sell the stuff, pitch it, donate it, or give it away to friends.
  2. Cancel cable television. Cable TV is practically a given in our country. But the time it takes away from the average person’s life is staggering. And no one is happier from watching television. It merely serves as a distraction from the real issues, both positive and negative, in your life.
  • Try limiting your viewing to 2-3 hours a week. This will free up plenty of time to do other things you love or work toward goals that are important to you. Reaching those goals will, in all likelihood, bring you more happiness than excessive TV viewing!

Getting rid of these things might not directly increase your happiness, but it’ll allow you some time and space to do other things that will increase your happiness.

 

Now that you’re done with the big steps, what’s next? Take some time to consider these areas of your life:

  • Spend time on your relationships. How is your relationship with your spouse or partner? Is there something that could be improved upon? Making this relationship as positive as possible is crucial to your happiness.
  • Evaluate your social network. Are your friendships and social activities supporting your happiness? In what ways do they make you happy? How could you increase your positive feelings in this area?
  • Assess your health. Are you as healthy as you could be? Are you happy with your body? What changes could you make to your routine to bring about the results you desire?
  • Be honest with yourself about your career, finances, and hobbies. Look at each of these areas and determine if you would be happier with some changes. If so, make a plan with some easy action steps to get you started on a path that brings you more joy.

Now that you’ve gotten rid of the dead weight and changed the things that aren’t as good as they could be you have room to add in activities that support your happiness. Don’t be in a big hurry to take up all the new space; enjoy the peace and quiet.

If you have an activity you’d really love to add to your life, now is the time to do it. Over time, continuing to add new things that bring joy will enhance your overall happiness. Your life will be forever changed.

Having a life filled with happiness is really quite simple. Just get rid of all the objects and activities that aren’t adding to your joy. At this point, you’ll have the time, space, and money available to add more satisfying features to your life.

Try implementing just one or two items from this plan today. Before you know it, your level of happiness will be higher than ever.

Hope you enjoyed this article and have a beautiful week filled with love and light, Barbara

www.BarbaraSavin.com

BarbaraESavin@aol.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MotivateYourLifeWithBarbara/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BarbaraSavin

 

 

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28 Nov

Worrying – The Truth About It

Unless you are a Zen monk who has mastered the art of total thought control, you would be inclined to worry at times.

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, worry is defined as:
“To think about problems or fears: to feel or show fear and concern because you think that something bad has happened or could happen.”

Here’s something that we all would know – some people worry more than others.

I had a Life Coaching client whose sense of feeling “normal” was when he had something to worry about.

If things were going well for him, he would subconsciously look for things to worry about. Once he found something to worry about, he would feel like he was back in his “zone”.

This former client of mine reminds me of a quote by Tony Robbins:

“We’re not wired for happiness; we are wired for anxiety. We are wired for what’s wrong. We are wired for survival, which means our brain is constantly looking for anything that could hurt us. This serves us well when we’re crossing a busy intersection, but it does not serve us if we permanently live in that emotional state, always fearing what danger might lurk around the corner. The good news is you get to choose which emotions you want to experience the most.”

While most of us (especially in Western Society) have worried about things in the past, and will worry about things in the future, there are certain things that you can control when it comes to worrying.

Here is a 5 step process to handle worrying in a productive manner:

  1. Acknowledge it – if you are worrying about something, then please acknowledge the fact that you are worried. Just like everything else on earth, “Don’t worry, be happy” is easier said than done. Acknowledging it is the first step. Living in denial or trying to fight it off will be of little or no use. Pretending that you are not worried will not help either. Acknowledging the fact that you are worried will put you in a far better position (mentally, emotionally, and physically) to handle the cause of the worry.
  2. Be solution oriented – instead of worrying about the problem, shift your attention to the solution. Focus on the solution, not the problem. Yes, sometimes you have to focus on the problem in order to come up with a solution. That said, the solution is more important than the problem. When you focus on the solution, you will be more likely to feel that you are in control. With more control of the situation comes less worry. If the situation is totally out of your control, then acceptance will be the most productive way to handle it. In an article in Psychology Today, Professor Graham C.L. Davey said “There is good evidence that in most people worrying is associated with a problem-focused coping style (that is, a willingness to approach and deal with problems), and it’s also associated with an information seeking coping style.” You can use worrying as something that will prompt you to take action toward a solution. Make a plan of action steps that you will take in order to overcome the problem. Then execute!
  3. Switch off from the media – the Black Eyed Peas said “Wrong information always shown by the media. Negative images is the main criteria.” Regardless of how positive or optimistic you are, your mindset will become what you feed it. If you are constantly bombarding your mindset with negativity from the media, guess what? You will most likely start to feel negative. In 2007, a friend of mine who was also a very devout student of personal development gave me an exercise. He said “Watch the 6:00 pm news for a week, and have a look at the top 5 stories in the news each day. I will bet my bottom dollar that they will all be something negative – people getting killed, someone getting robbed, a war, terrorism, or animal cruelty”. After a week of watching the nightly news, I only had one thing to say to him – “You were spot on!” Now, I am not suggesting that you completely cut yourself off from what’s happening in the world. All that I am suggesting is that you guard your mind from being bombarded by negativity. Constant exposure to negativity will not help you overcome being worried.
  4. Give yourself a reality check – sometimes we tend to blow things out of proportion. Ask yourself “Is the problem really that big of a deal that I have to worry about it?” Look back at things in the past that made you worry. How did they turn out? Learn from those experiences. You could also ask yourself “On a scale of 1 to 10, how big is this problem?” Then, go back to step 2, and focus on the solution.
  5. Get support – a load that is shared will become a lighter load to carry. Whether you get someone to help you solve the problem or someone to act as a sounding board, you will most likely feel lighter afterward. Sometimes, just by sharing the problem, you will automatically feel less worried. The beauty about sharing your feelings is that others might give you their input which may change your perspective on the whole issue. And a change of perspective could just be the thing that you need. Reaching out for support doesn’t mean that you are weak. It means that you wish to remain strong.

There you have it! 5 steps to take if you feel that you are consumed with worry.
To put things in perspective, have a look at the quote below:

Quote: “60% of what you worry about will never actualise, 20% of what you worry about is in the past. 10% of what you worry about won’t impact you even if it came true. 10% of what you worry about may impact you but won’t kill you”.  Victor Antonio

I sincerely hope that I have given you something of value and that you will use these 5 steps the next time you feel the effects of worry.

Influencing you towards your excellence,

Ron Prasad (Author, Speaker, Personal Development Coach)

PS: To order my book, please go to www.WelcomeToYourLifeBook.com. For $19.95, you get the book, thousands of dollars in bonus gifts from some of the best personal development experts in the world (such as Bob Proctor, Marci Shimoff, Dr Joe Rubino), and you get to give back to the community by supporting my charity!  I appreciate your support.

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22 Nov

You are Not Alone: The Epidemic of Self-Judgment

84304An Excerpt from Make Peace with Your Mind

by Mark Coleman

Many of us are well acquainted with our “Inner Critic.” It is the voice that makes us second-guess our every step by saying “not enough,” “not good enough,” or sometimes “too much.” At times the Inner Critic can be so strong that it feels invincible, but bestselling author and renowned meditation teacher Mark Coleman promises that it is not in his new book Make Peace with Your Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Your Inner Critic. We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt.

 

# # #

 

Have you noticed how many people give themselves a hard time? How friends and colleagues routinely put themselves down and happily confess all their faults and problems? It is culturally acceptable to talk about your faults and challenges, and of course to complain ad nauseam about the faults of others. As Lucy so eloquently put it in a Peanuts cartoon (speaking to Charlie Brown): “The problem with you, Charlie, is that you are you.”

 

At the same time it is quite the norm not to talk about one’s successes, strengths, and accomplishments. In some cultures, that is considered gauche and egotistical. Being raised in England, I was taught it was a faux pas to speak of your talents and gifts or celebrate your victories. It is as if you are rubbing other people’s nose in the dirt by doing so. Yet it is fine to lead with one’s inadequacies and problems.

 

In the United States the mental health statistics are alarming. One in ten Americans is on some form of antidepressant. One in five took some kind of behavioral medication in 2010. The number of suicides is equally staggering: forty thousand per year. And that’s just the numbers that are reported. Though the numbers may be higher in the United States than elsewhere, many industrialized countries report similarly alarming statistics.

 

Based on the work I have done with people over the past fifteen years on six continents, I believe the inner critic is a significant cause of much of the depression, anxiety, and suicide prevalent today. When the critic’s voices are loud, sharp, and rampant, it is hard to keep a sense of self-worth or feel there is a meaning or purpose in life.

 

Though the statistics are startling, there is one sad but reassuring fact among them: you are not alone. One of the biggest burdens we can carry when we are depressed, or just lost in a swamp of self-reproach, is the troubling thought that we are unusual to have such problems. We mistakenly believe that we are the only ones afflicted by nagging, negative stories about ourselves. It is bad enough to have such troubling thoughts, but the idea that you may be the only “loser” in the room who has them is doubly shaming, and harder to work with.

 

In workshops that I lead about the inner critic, one of the most healing outcomes is people’s realization that they are not the only ones with a judging mind. Isolation and the belief that you’re the odd one out, that everyone but you is having a merry old time, just compounds these mental challenges.

 

When I have people pair up at an inner-critic workshop and share their list of self-judgments, there is at first a sense of great apprehension and embarrassment, and a fear of the shame that may ensue. But when they actually do share their lists, a collective relief sweeps the room. The realization that we share similar self-judgments and negative mental habits brings this sense of relief. The thought that we can help each other if we share a similar burden also nurtures an important sense of camaraderie and social support.

 

Practice: Noticing the Critic Everywhere

As you go about your life — whether at home, at work, with friends, running errands, watching television — start paying attention to how you see the critic operating in other people. We can certainly observe it when hearing politicians and pundits barking on the radio or when movie critics are demolishing the latest film.

 

Also notice the inner critic in conversations, in the way people jokingly put themselves down: “Oh, you know me. I’m hopeless at math. Why don’t you do the numbers?” “My hair looks terrible today.” “I look awful in those photos.” “I made a real mess of that meeting at work yesterday.” These are all common parts of social conversation.

 

Observe what happens when you notice this behavior. Can you relate to others when they are putting themselves or others down? Does it feel familiar or even comfortable? Do you feel a sense of camaraderie? Can you see how ubiquitous this pattern is? Does it leave you feeling less alone, now that you can see you are not the only person with a sadistic inner voice? Similarly, do you feel compassion for others when they talk about themselves so negatively?

 

The more you can observe in this way, the more you will relieve yourself of the burdensome feeling that you are the only one with a problem, that you alone have a voice you should be ashamed of. Instead you may begin to feel a sense of connection with others, a feeling that you too are part of the shared human struggle, trying to find a way to be at peace amid all our conditioning and mental gyrations.

 

# # #

 

Carmel Valley CA Photographer Doug EllisMark Coleman is the author of Make Peace with Your Mind and Awake in the Wild.  He is the founder of the Mindfulness Institute and has an MA in Clinical Psychology. Mark has guided students on five continents as a corporate consultant, counselor, meditation teacher, and wilderness guide. He lives in Northern California. Visit him online at www.markcoleman.org.

 

Excerpted from Make Peace with Your Mind. Copyright © 2016 by Mark Coleman. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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12 Nov

Who Are You Really?

If you ask yourself who you are, the answer might sound like: I am this person reading this article whose name is XYZ, who is a male or a female, who looks like the image in the mirror, living in ABC city, working as blah-blah, child/parent/spouse of so-and-so, having such-and-such thoughts, feelings, experiences, knowledge, skills, capabilities, memories, tendencies, and so on so forth. All these answers pertain to what can be called in a nutshell – a body-mind complex. There are high chances that this is what you take yourself to be.

Now consider this: You are a fully grown adult now, but you were once a little baby, a small boy/girl and a young teenager. Research suggests that, sparing few types of cells, most cells in the body die within few years and get constantly replaced with new ones. So, physiologically speaking, most of your current body cells were not present ten or twenty or thirty years ago which means you had materially different bodies back then. Even the state of your mind as a baby/child/teenager was very different than what you have now. So, if you are just a body-mind complex, you must have been someone else in the past as your body and mind have been very different at different stages of your life, and you will yet again turn into someone else as you grow older. But that’s not how you feel about yourself. You think you are one and the same entity throughout your life whose body and mind changes over time. So, if you are always the same entity, how can you be the body-mind complex which is constantly changing?

Here’s another way to look at it: Let’s say its possible for you to take-up an entirely new body which is everything you always wanted – healthier, stronger, better looking, more functional, and without any of the pains, aches and problems of your current body. And let’s say you don’t lose any of the advantages of your current body and people around you somehow continue to recognize you as before. Chances are you would want to sign-up for this offer. You would be willing to swap your mind too if you are offered a different mind with a more positive personality, stronger intellect, sharper memory, better knowledge and skills and capabilities, and much lesser issues compared to your current mind say in terms of anger, fear, lust, shame, hatred, etc., while still making sure that you don’t lose any of the advantages of your current mind. These are clear indications that you are neither the body nor the mind, because if you were really those, you would have never considered swapping them out as it would have meant the end of your current existence and birth of someone else.

Yet another way to arrive at the same conclusion: Let’s say you think you are fat and want to reduce your weight by half. It basically means that you would lose half your body. Or, for some reason, you lose a limb or two like a leg or an arm, or maybe more which makes-up a large part of your body. Would you think that you are only a part of what you were earlier or would you still consider yourself to be the same whole person? It applies to the mind too. Even if you lose a part of it like your memory or knowledge or intellect or any such thing, which happens a lot with age, you would still think you are the same person. These are again clear indications that you are neither the body nor the mind.

Let me re-iterate. If you were really just the body-mind complex and nothing more, any substantial change in the body and/or the mind would have meant that you have turned into someone else. But that’s not how you feel about yourself. You always feel that you are the same person throughout your life even though your personality might be undergoing various changes. Think about it. Contemplate on it. Re-read if you need to and you will begin to get it. If you are still not getting it, its primarily because of your natural attachment to the body and mind which is preventing you from believing that you are not them. Its not easy to get rid of this attachment and takes time.

Lets try to further understand what’s going on. Consider a house that you are familiar with. As time goes, you change the furniture, appliances, fittings, color scheme, and many such things. You may even remodel it and add/remove/change sections over time. So much so that the house might look very different from what it looked say thirty years ago – both from inside and outside. But you would still consider it to be the same house. In fact, as long as you don’t completely demolish the house and re-construct a new one, you would continue to call it the same house irrespective of the extent of change it undergoes. This is because what you refer to as the house is not really the material building itself but a concept of the house in your mind. As time passes and the house keeps changing materially, the concept keeps adapting to the change and you keep referring to it as the house. The same thing applies to your own body-mind. What you refer to as yourself is not the body-mind complex directly but a concept of it in your mind that remains one but keeps pointing to the changed body-mind.

Now the killer: Do you think you are really that concept in the mind you are referring to as yourself, or are you the one who is referring to that concept?

You have come a long way in trying to understand who or what you really are – all the way from thinking you are just a body-mind complex to thinking you are some entity that is referring to a concept of your body-mind as yourself. Its difficult to go beyond this understanding just through intellectual analysis, reasoning or normal experience. So it helps to seek guidance from those who have been successful in knowing their real self, learn from what they have to say about it, and then validate it for yourself. There have been many such through the millenniums who have left their invaluable and timeless teachings. If we study their teachings, we will find one thing in common – they all say that who or what we really are is indescribable in words. There is good reason for that. Its impossible to communicate even a normal day-to-day experience in words (like the experience of eating an ice-cream or listening to a piece of music or looking at a beautiful scenery) to someone else and make them come even close to how you feel. They have to experience it for themselves. If such is the case for a normal experience, what to say of our real self which is far subtler. Even then, for others benefit, these teachers atleast indicate what our real self is like and describe practices to know and experience it internally.

The best term used to indicate the real self (aka Self), as found in the teachings in Upanishads and other Indian scriptures, is Sat-Chit-Ananda which means Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. These are not three words but one word represented by a conjunction of three words as there is no single word that can express the meaning fully. What it means is that the essence of the Self is pure and absolute Existence, Consciousness and Bliss. Pure and absolute Existence implies that its not existence of a particular thing or existence dependent on something, but Existence in itself which is the ground for existence of all things. Pure and absolute Consciousness implies that its not a particular conscious being or consciousness of a particular thing, but Consciousness in itself which is the ground for all types of conscious activities. Pure and absolute Bliss implies that its not a particular type of nice feeling, but Bliss in itself which is the ground for all types of positive feelings (like happiness, joy, peace, etc.). Moreover, all three i.e. Existence, Consciousness and Bliss, go together at all times and are not disjoint.

So, your real Self is not a particular entity that is existing, conscious and blissful, but is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss itself in its purest and absolute sense.

If this sounds vague to you, you are not alone. As mentioned above, who or what you really are is indescribable in words, so these words are only indicative in nature. You need to experience your true Self internally and then only will you really know who you are. But here’s why it atleast makes sense for the Self to be Existence-Consciousness-Bliss:

Let’s take up Consciousness first. Existence and Bliss will follow through. Consider any day-to-day experience, like looking at something. The light reflected from an object enters your eyes and falls on your retina that generates neuro-signals which travel through your optical nerves and result in some bio-electro-chemical activity in your brain that is somehow interpreted as a visual scene within your consciousness. What you see is not the sub-atomic particles that make-up the object, nor the light particles, nor the neuro-signals, nor the bio-electro-chemical activities in the brain, but something quite different from the materials involved in the whole process – a 3D image with different colors and brightness. Same thing happens when you are listening to something – the surround sound that you experience is quite different from the materials involved in the hearing process. In fact, your experience of anything – whether its physical or mental – is always of a construct in your consciousness and never of the matter involved directly. Actually matter and consciousness are so intrinsically different that its impossible for them to interact with each other. Hence, what we think of as matter is also nothing but a construct in consciousness that just seems to have matter-like properties. Even the concept of your own body-mind that you refer to as yourself is also nothing but a construct in consciousness.

If you are having a problem in understanding what consciousness means, try this: Say someone creates a robot, an android, that is designed to look and behave exactly like you. Its been programmed to act, speak and even think like you. The way you talk/walk/sit/stand, your skin, your hair, your features, your expressions, everything being exactly the same. So much so that no one will ever be able to tell apart any difference between the android and you. Even after all this there will still be one key difference between the android and you – the inner subjective experience of being you. Its only present in you and will be absent in the robot. This is consciousness.

Its important to note that this is not “your” consciousness as by “your” you mean your body-mind, and its not that consciousness is within the body-mind but the body-mind is appearing within consciousness. What you call as “your” consciousness is only a “reflection” of this consciousness in your mind, but consciousness itself is not dependent on the existence of yours or anyone else’s mind. This is the pure and absolute Consciousness. Its also pure and absolute Existence since its the only entity that exists and everything – you, others, the whole world, the whole universe – simply seems to appear in it making it the ground of all existence. Its also pure and absolute Bliss as nothing else exists that it would be in any form of conflict with.

This pure and absolute Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, which enlightened people say is also infinite and eternal, is what you and everything really is.

If you are an intelligent living being, the foremost thing to know in life is who or what you really are and then live life accordingly. An intellectual understanding of it is a good beginning but not the end. You need to resolve all doubts and get a firm conviction that what is being explained makes complete sense. No matter what your questions are, there are answers to all of them and the best answers come from within. This technique of Self-realization has been practiced successfully by people for thousands of years and is only going strong. All possible questions have been asked and answered in multiple ways. Once you get a firm conviction, you need to make it a living reality which is only possible through meticulous spiritual practice. The benefits of doing this are tremendous – both while you are on the journey as well as when you reach the goal. All miseries and sufferings in life pertain to the body-mind and the conflict that arises because of its separation from others. When you realize you are not the body-mind but pure and absolute Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, the only entity that really exists, and that is infinite and eternal, all miseries and sufferings will evaporate and you will reach a state of unlimited permanent bliss!

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/153070581415/who-are-you-really)

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10 Nov

Post Election Prayer

This is a prayer that is featured in my book “Bhakti: 108 Prayers of Devotion” – I think it is appropriate for what a lot of us are feeling right now. It applies to many situations. I keep reminding myself: “God’s got this.” It’s very comforting.

 

Dear God,

I’m glad You’re in charge.

Sometimes things don’t go the way I’d like them to go,

Or the way I think they should go.

And I feel frustrated, or hurt, or disappointed.

But then I remember You’re in charge. I remember that You have a plan.

I remember that however things “seem” to be – is probably not how they really are.

It is comforting knowing that I don’t have to exhaust myself

Trying to make things different.

Because I trust that You have it covered.

I might forget, and get stressed out.

So when I forget, please remind me.

There are so many ways you are present in my life.

Open my eyes to beauty. Open my heart to joy.

Grant me patience, and peace, understanding and acceptance.

I can’t control everything. And I really don’t want to.

So I’ll just leave it to You.

I’ll just let go, and let You do your thing.

Thanks.

Amen.

 

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