Archive | May 2012

Claim Your Personal Power

It is important to shift our attention off of others and onto ourselves. By doing so, we’ll begin to notice what needs correcting in our own thinking, behavior, choices, and beliefs. Shifting the attention onto ourselves will make it less likely that we’ll make our partner (or anyone else) our project, and more likely that we’ll take actions to benefit our own life.

For example, I have a friend whose husband was an alcoholic, and for many years she tried to control his excessive drinking and the painful behaviors it created in her life. It would drive her crazy when he would go on a 15-minute diatribe about the phone bill, so in a situation like this, she’d try to control his behavior by hiding the bill from him and just pay it before he saw it. Or, he’d tear the house apart looking for something he lost and blame her for putting it somewhere, when in reality, she hadn’t done anything of the sort.

My friend thought that it was up to her to get the craziness under control because it affected her, and she felt responsible. However, eventually it became clear that nothing she said or did had any impact on her husband’s behavior because he simply wasn’t interested in making any positive changes.

Therefore, when it became apparent that the situation wasn’t going to improve, my friend started to concentrate on herself. This change in focus helped her decide that she could no longer live in this way, so she claimed her own power and left her husband.

But prior to leaving, she made the process more palatable by:

• Choosing not to engage in arguments

• Not defending herself

• Refusing to take her husband’s words personally

• Focusing on what she wanted, and not how to fix her husband

This is a good reminder that even though we can encourage, support, and motivate others to change, it is ultimately up to them to take the steps necessary for their own self-growth.

ACTION STEP:

Today, try not to correct others, or monitor their behaviors. Instead, use your personal power to shift your focus onto more positive uses of your time.

Have a Sense of Humor

“You grow up the day you have the first real laugh—at yourself.”

Ethel Barrymore

It’s important to cultivate a sense of humor and not take ourselves too seriously. When we can laugh at the things we’ve done, said, or reacted to, we will lighten up, and breathe joy and celebration into our life. With this type of good energy, we’re more likely to attract other people and partners who share the same positive point of view. Good-natured joking is extremely gratifying and healthy for all concerned, and reminds us of the fact that none of us are perfect, and so, find the humor in our mistakes.

One way to keep the joy flowing is to focus our attention on our blessings, and spend more time talking about solutions instead of problems. It’s definitely beneficial to talk things out, process our feelings, and express whatever is appropriate. However, continuing to rehash problems doesn’t solve them, and merely exacerbates most situations. When we ruminate on what isn’t working, it depletes our needed energy, makes us miserable, and oftentimes we project our frustration onto other people.

Over time, we can also run the risk of getting physically ill, as prolonged stressful thinking causes havoc in the body. Conversely, laughter can cure many of the things that ail us—not to mention the fact that it’s so much fun to experience. The mind-body connection plays a powerful role in our level of overall health, so we don’t want to take that lightly. If you’re not aware of this connection, you may not see that treating your mind with joyful thoughts is helping your physical self as well.

For example, many years ago I had a sudden, severe bout with back spasms. I wasn’t able to walk without extreme pain and didn’t know what was happening. During this time, I found out about a doctor in New York named Dr. John Sarno who’d written a book called Healing Back Pain. It addresses the mind-body connection, a concept that helped me tremendously over the many months I was recovering from this ordeal. (I would recommend this work whether you suffer from back pain or not.)

After reading Dr. Sarno’s book and learning everything I could about the topic, has taught me so much about how our thinking patterns and ways of dealing with stress, can drastically affect the body. Thankfully, I haven’t had a recurrence, but I do have a new appreciation for looking at the humorous, upbeat side of life.

Certainly, not everything is funny, and many matters need serious attention; however, it’s definitely more productive to look at things in a lighthearted way, than in a pessimistic, destructive manner.

ACTION STEP:

Write down ways in which you can laugh at yourself from a position of love and good-natured fun. How do you feel when you do so?

Start Meditating

“Half an hour’s meditation is essential except when you are very busy. Then a full hour is needed.”

— Francis de Sales

Daily meditation is an excellent way to care for yourself, and a great opportunity to rest your mind while you take a time-out from the outside world. Meditation involves sitting quietly in the privacy of your own thoughts. Not only does this type of alone time create a wonderful feeling of inner peace and relaxation, but it is vital for deepening the connection to your authentic true self. Therefore, it’s an ideal opportunity to ask for guidance, listen to your inner voice, and take those steps that are in harmony with your overall well-being.

Conversely, when you spend a lot of time distracted by other things and people, it’s easy to lose track of what’s best for you. When you experience a disconnect between your mind and heart, then you’ll be making decisions from an intellectual standpoint rather than from your intuition and feelings.

Making relationship decisions (or any other life decisions) based solely on what looks good on paper or sounds impressive to others while ignoring any conflicting feelings you may have leads to disastrous results. For example, you may feel uncomfortable with someone, but your family likes him or her so you ignore your own discomfort and stay with this person.

Then, you may find out later that your intuition was right all along, and that this individual was dishonest or abusive. Had you listened to your “gut,” you could have spared yourself a lot of pain. Your intuition, or mind’s eye, can often pick up information that you don’t physically observe yet, so the stronger your alignment is with your heart and soul, the more fine-tuned your awareness will be. Many misalignments can be alleviated through meditation, as it calls into play all your senses.

When your inner world is at peace, you are uplifted, and better able to handle the challenges and concerns in the outer world. There is less worry about the future, and more focus on the present moment. From that place, your inner knowing will serve as a guide as you travel through your many life experiences. Additionally, when you’re actively involved in meditation, it changes the way you experience stress—and even prevents the formation of stressful thoughts in the first place.

You can meditate anywhere, but creating a dedicated area or room in your home where you won’t be disturbed works quite well. When you take the time to connect with yourself in this peaceful atmosphere, you’ll find that your mind and heart feel nourished, and the result will be a sense of overall rejuvenation.

Here are some suggestions for starting a meditation practice:

• Concentrate on your breathing by counting from one to ten as you breathe in and out.

• Repeat a calming prayer, phrase, or expression such as: “My life is a gift” over and over.

• Focus on the moment, and when your mind drifts off, gently bring it back to the present.

• Listen to a guided meditation CD.

• Observe your thoughts as if you were watching a movie.

• Mentally place any worries, fears, and problems on a cloud and let them drift away.

ACTION STEP:

In the meditative space you have created, just sit quietly for whatever amount of time feels comfortable to you, even if it’s just 5 minutes and see how it makes you feel.

Make Yourself a Priority

“Don’t listen to friends when the Friend inside you says ‘Do this!’”

Mahatma Gandhi

If we were to put as much effort into pleasing ourselves as we do into pleasing others, we wouldn’t have to work so hard on loving ourselves. Imagine the emotions you feel for those you love, and apply those same feelings to you! There’s nothing better than enjoying your own company and treating yourself like a dear friend.

But if you put yourself at the bottom of the priorities list, you’ll end up feeling terrible, and that will extend to other areas of your life as well. You may think it’s better to care for others than yourself, but this isn’t true, because you project the way you feel about you to those in your life—and you want that projection to be a happy and loving one.

Most likely, you have no problem filling up your calendar with events or tasks you need to do each day, but may neglect to schedule time for yourself. This is often because you feel you don’t have the time for you, or it seems too frivolous. It might sound self-indulgent to book a massage for yourself, for example, yet you might think nothing of buying one as a gift for someone else. Even the gift of a nap when you’re tired would benefit both you and others, as your resultant mood could spread to those in your life, while also making you feel good.

Unfortunately, sometimes you can get confined to a “list,” and find that you’re allowing it to run you, instead of you running it. Habitually overscheduling your days with obligations, commitments, and projects will leave you feeling depleted rather than energized. Also, try to make a “could” list rather than a “should” list. Feeling like you must do something takes all the joy out of it. You become like a hamster in a cage, running in circles but never really getting anywhere.

You can choose to incorporate joyful activities into the tasks you need to accomplish each day. The joy is in the journey, so you want to make room in your life to enjoy yourself and connect with what is most meaningful to you.

So, think about trying the following:

— Create space. By simplifying your life, you will have much more space, and will experience a new kind of balance. You might begin by letting go of some obligatory volunteer projects that you’re no longer passionate about, or leadership positions that only feed your reputation but not your soul. You can also delegate household tasks and home repairs, and hire someone to clean your home without feeling as if you have to do it all by yourself, thereby creating feelings of martyrdom.

ACTION STEP:

Live each day more mindfully by concentrating on what’s most important to you. What matters most to you right now? What activities or rituals would make this a wonderful day? How would you feel if they occurred?

Don’t Settle

Sooner or later, hopefully we realize that life is too short to merely settle for what comes along, when we can create a more fulfilling existence by following our own joy. By now, you’re probably very clear on what you don’t want, but are not sure how to follow the path that honors your true desires.

The first step in this process is to listen to that small voice within and get clear on what you do want. Often, in order to obtain clarity on what you want, you have to acknowledge, and then release, those individuals or situations that drain your energy, even if others don’t agree or understand.

One way to start doing so is to make a list of the people, things, or situations that are impeding your growth and dragging you down. You may be surprised by how much you’re putting up with that’s depleting your energy. Ultimately, this process of recognizing and removing your energy drains will lead you to do more important things with your time, which will result in a better quality of life.

Below are some energy drains that may be weighing you down:

• Friends who call you only when they need something.

• Constantly being subjected to the rants of a critical or complaining associate.

• Accepting one-way relationships.

• Continually dealing with angry outbursts by family members.

Several years ago, there was one person on my list who caused me great turmoil because I allowed her to vent her anger at me by phone when she was troubled by something. It could be something she felt I did to her, or just something negative going on in her life. I would get off the phone exhausted, and feeling bad about myself. A friend of mine suggested that I lovingly tell this woman that I couldn’t allow her to speak to me in this way anymore, but would be willing to listen to her if she communicated her feelings in a calm tone of voice.

So I ended up telling her, “I love you, but I cannot allow you to yell at me any longer.” At first she ignored me, so I repeated the request by staying calm but firm, and said if she continued to talk to me in this manner, I would need to end the call immediately.

She was not appreciative of my newfound voice, but I had to speak my truth whether she approved or not. I realized that I didn’t have to settle, or endure anyone else’s destructive, negative behavior. That one action led to many others that put an end to the cycle of “settling,” which enhanced my life as a whole in many positive ways.

ACTION STEP:

Write down five ways in which you’re settling, or putting up with behavior you’re not comfortable with, and the reasons you think you’re doing so. Then next to each item, write down how you’re going to counteract this behavior for your highest good.

Extend Forgiveness

“Clean your finger before you point at my spots.”

Benjamin Franklin

Nothing eases our minds and hearts better than the practice of forgiveness. It is the gel that soothes our relationship experiences, and the key to releasing us from self-created prisons. By practicing forgiveness, we disconnect from the emotional charge that is attached to a certain person, situation, or memory.

This process has everything to do with releasing the hurt inside of us. To the extent that we hold on to anger, resentment, or feelings of retaliation is the degree of emotional bondage and lack of freedom we will experience in life. Ceasing to ruminate on thoughts of revenge or any other related thinking releases the poison of those feelings and brings about peace within. Only by freeing ourselves from these toxic emotions can we enjoy today and create a happier future.

Some common misconceptions about forgiveness that often keeps us stuck are:

• It lets someone off the hook.

• It reduces the importance or impact of the original offense.

• It condones another’s bad behavior.

• It requires reconciliation.

• It is a favor to the perpetrator.

Forgiving others is not an easy thing to do, especially if the perpetrator committed an act of abuse or betrayal, but it is vital to our emotional and physical health, and to the viability of our current and future relationships.

And it’s important to remember that not all hurt that we’ve experienced is caused by someone else’s abusive actions or intentional mean-spirited behavior. Much of what happens in our life is what we perceive to be true, and sometimes those perceptions can blur the reality of a given situation. Ultimately, refusing to forgive others for their real or perceived offenses will deny us the needed closure from the past.

It may help to reflect on times you have hurt others and on those who have forgiven you. It’s easy to make note of the bad behavior of others, but it’s important to acknowledge our own shortcomings as well. Ironically, some of us may focus too much attention on our weaknesses and need to forgive ourselves for this or other types of personal harm.

In any case, if we’re holding on to painful feelings toward others (or ourselves) for any reason, it is necessary to release them, free ourselves from this emotional bondage, and move forward.

 ACTION STEP:

Begin the healing process of forgiveness by discussing your feelings with someone you trust. Talk with an individual you consider wise and compassionate—such as a spiritual leader or an impartial loved one or friend. Sharing your feelings with an objective listener can help you gain some perspective, and get some much-needed support.

Gifts in Disguise

Sometimes, the events and people that show up in our life may not seem like positive things on the face of it, so we judge them as being either “good” or “bad” depending on whether they’re serving us at the time. If we like what’s happening, then it must be good; and if we don’t, then it’s bad. To illustrate this idea, I have provided an example that looked bad on the surface, but that ended up being really good in the end. A friend of mine told me this story about someone she knew, and it has always stuck with me:

There was a woman who was very excited about the prospect of having her hair done in New York City by a well-known, highly regarded hair stylist. Due to the expense involved, she saved for many months and spoke of nothing else. Finally, the day arrived and she traveled to New York to undergo this highly anticipated hair transformation. But the reality was that she received a terrible haircut and was treated rudely by the stylist. With her spirit crushed and her hair ruined, she fled the salon in tears of disbelief, only to literally run into a man on her way out, causing her purse to open and all its contents to spill out on the ground. Fortunately, this man helped her recover her belongings and so much more—they ultimately ended up getting married.

The moral of the story is that this woman thought that the intent of her trip to New York was to get her hair done, but the universe had other plans. What at first seemed like a mini disaster transformed into one of the greatest joys of her life. The reason I’ve related this story is to remind us that this type of thing occurs so often in life—that is, what may appear to be a tragedy is actually a great gift.

So it’s important to be open to the miracles that surround us each day so we don’t miss out on the opportunities that appear right in front of us. It is a good reminder that sometimes things are happening for our highest good and don’t always occur in the way we expected, but can end up being better than we imagined.

ACTION STEP:

Reflect on situations that seemed “bad” at the time but ultimately proved to be gifts in disguise.