Posts tagged with ‘Relationships’

09 mar

The Self-Sabotaging Behavior of Denial

WEJMDMost people have a variety of self-sabotaging behaviors that prevent them from manifesting the life that they want. The first step in overcoming self-sabotaging behaviors is to first recognize them. One of the most powerful self-sabotaging behaviors is denial.

Denial is a defense mechanism that discharges anxiety and emotional discomfort. By denying there’s a problem we don’t have to feel bad about the fact that there’s a problem. Unfortunately this doesn’t solve anything or make our lives better. It just sweeps our problems under the rug. They’re still there. Still gnawing at us and still getting in our way.

One example is the area of health. If we have a bump and we are afraid to go to a doctor to find out that it might be something really bad we deny that it is a problem. Unfortunately when it becomes the elephant in the room, something we no longer can deny, it becomes a problem much more difficult to resolve than had we acknowledged it and faced it when it first appeared.

One form of denial is denying that our behaviors are actually self sabotaging. For example, when we are late for an appointment we might tell ourselves that it’s not going to matter, that the excuse we give will be accepted and that there won’t be any negative consequences. But this usually isn’t true. When we are late for appointments or don’t call people back in a timely fashion, as another example, people may be gracious about it but they probably are registering some degree of irritation, disappointment, feeling disrespected or undervalued. And this may over time lead to passive aggressive behavior on their part or them not doing something to assist us in the future when we ask them for help.

BLAMING OTHERS AND SEEING OURSELVES AS VICTIMS

Shakespeare once wrote “the fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars but ourselves that we are underlings.” So one form of denial would be thinking that the fault lies outside of ourselves and that we are victims of a hostile, chaotic universe out of our control, as opposed to us being the prime movers of our fate.

This is a very powerful form of denial, blaming other people and circumstances for our difficulties. For example when we tailgate and get into a car accident we have a tendency to call it an accident when it is actually the result of our poor judgment and we tend to blame the car in front of us for stopping abruptly.

This is very common to blame others and not take responsibility for our actions. Oftentimes when couples fight, one partner will blame the other partner, stating that “you made me angry, you made me throw the toaster against the wall, you made me scream at you, you made me hit you, if you hadn’t antagonized me, if you hadn’t pushed my buttons, if you hadn’t called me that name, if you hadn’t provoked me, then I wouldn’t have behaved that way.” Denial in this case is the denial of ownership. It doesn’t matter if we are provoked. We have a choice to behave correctly and honorably or not and if we don’t, and don’t admit it then we are in denial.

Denial is very common with alcoholics and addicts. “If I just have one drink it won’t really matter, I’ll be able to handle it, it won’t escalate into a serious problem.” Alcoholics and addicts tell themselves this despite having a history of one drink or one drug hit escalating into a serious problem.

Another form of denial in regard to alcohol and drugs is that people oftentimes convince themselves that other people don’t know when they are high. This is usually never the case. Most people can tell when other people are under the influence.

We are in denial when we abuse other people and tell ourselves that they’ll get over it, they’re not going to leave us. Usually, sooner or later, they do, and when they do there is often too much water under the bridge, too much built up resentment and anger for the relationship to be repaired.

We are in denial when we keep on putting off proper diet and exercise. The denial part is not that we are denying these are important things to do but that it won’t one day catch up with us and put us in the grave prematurely. We deny the long-term consequences of our actions.

SHOOTING THE MESSENGER

When someone tells us something we don’t want to hear or deal with, we find ways to attack them and invalidate them so that we don’t have to acknowledge that they’ve made a good point. We might tell them that “you do it too.” And so this allows us to deny the importance of us getting our own house in order regardless of how other people behave.

In relationships when we tell our partner that “I don’t have any problem. I don’t need anger management. You’re the one with the problem not me. You’re the one who needs therapy not me,” this is denial in spades and is a sure fire predictor of a relationship that will never heal and will most likely one day disintegrate. This is another example of shooting the messenger.

Another form of denial is called “contempt prior to investigation” which means we prejudge and reject an idea without first evaluating it to determine if it might have validity. “That’s not going to work.” “It’s a waste of time.” These are dogmatic denials that have no basis in reality because we actually haven’t looked at the data.

Another form of denial is “doing the same thing and expecting different results.” Some people refer to this as insanity.

When we are told something that is true that we don’t want to hear or deal with and we seek out people who will yes us and support our position, this is denial. Just because we can find a bunch of people who tell us we’re right doesn’t mean we’re right.

“I’m only kidding” is a form of denial. When we say something to somebody that is hurtful and they react negatively, we backpedal and claim that “I was only kidding.” Sometimes it’s not denial, we know that we weren’t kidding and that we were making a harsh point, but oftentimes we con ourselves into believing that we really were only kidding, we were only teasing, we meant no real harm and that the person was being overly sensitive. This prevents us from looking at our behavior objectively and correcting it.

LIVING IN THE PAST

Living in the past and not seeing the handwriting on the wall is a form of denial. Whether or not you think marijuana should be legalized and whether or not you think gay marriage should be legalized, the handwriting on the wall is that these things will one day universally come to pass and to deny this and fight this is really a huge waste of time, energy and resources that could best be spent elsewhere.

Another form of denial is denying that forgiveness, acceptance, and love have the power to move mountains. Most people believe that anger and aggression are the way to solve problems. In the short run this may seem to be the case but in the long run they are not. Love is a miraculous force that can transform. When two people are fighting with each other, if one person can rise above the battlefield and express true unconditional acceptance, forgiveness and love, it oftentimes can discharge all the negativity and restore peace in the relationship.

Most people think that forgiveness is a sign of weakness. They don’t believe that the meek shall inherit the earth. This is denial. Forgiveness is a reflection of great strength and personal power. Survival of the fittest will one day prove to be survival not of the physically fittest but of the spiritually fittest: those who choose not to fight and instead insist upon finding peaceful resolutions.

The premise of my book Forgive To Win! is that we sabotage ourselves with denial and in other ways as well because at an unconscious level we are filled with guilt, shame and self-loathing; at an unconscious level we believe we are undeserving and unworthy of happiness, health and success, and that our subconscious mind, believing what we believe about ourselves at an unconscious level, believing that we deserve punishment and not reward, manifests in the real world that “truth” by causing us to do things that get in our way and generate failure.

So — if self-sabotage and denial are the result of guilt, shame and self-loathing, then the way to end self sabotage and denial is to love ourselves and forgive ourselves. The way to love ourselves and forgive ourselves is to love others, forgive others and be of service to others. The more we do this, the more we send the message to our subconscious mind that we are good, loving beings who deserve happiness and success, the more the subconscious mind shifts its purpose. It stops whispering negative messages in our ears, it stops encouraging us to engage in self-sabotaging behaviors, and it helps us to attract positive people and circumstances in our lives that will be rewarding rather than punishing.

The Forgiveness Diet is a structured program of daily exercises and behaviors to help achieve the goal of ending self sabotage.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Walter E Jacobson, MD on March 9th, 2014 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , ,

12 sep

How to Heal Relationships – Part One

WEJMDTruly loving, nurturing and sustainable relationships are not happening for a great many of us. The reasons for this have to do with our ego getting in the way, with our unwillingness to be more thoughtful, tolerant and considerate, with our unwillingness to rise above the battlefield, to release our anger and resentments from the past, to effectively communicate, to negotiate differences and to establish, maintain and respect boundaries.

I say unwillingness because although it may be difficult to do these things, we choose not to. Loving, sustainable relationships are not the result of accidents or luck, they are the result of healthy choices.

It’s profound the degree to which most of us treat strangers, acquaintances, co-workers and friends much better than we treat our loved ones. With our loved ones, we forget about being compassionate, generous, selfless, considerate, empathetic and loving. We take them for granted. We ridicule them. We shame them. We ignore their needs and invalidate their feelings. And then we complain that we don’t have the relationship that we want.

This isn’t tricky stuff. If we want to have a loving relationship, we need to be loving. If we want to be understood, we need to understand. If we want to be appreciated, we need to appreciate. If we want to be respected, we need to respect. If we want consideration, we need to be considerate. If we don’t want to be judged and shamed, we need to not judge and shame. If we want to be forgiven, we need to forgive.

We reap what we sow. It’s the Golden Rule and it works: When we treat others as we wish to be treated we tend to receive what we give. Our world gets better. Our relationships become more loving, more nurturing, more satisfying and more enduring.

So that’s the ticket: We choose to be generous. We choose to be grateful. We choose to be gracious. We don’t assume the worst. We give our partner the benefit of the doubt. When our partner says or does something that we feel is inconsiderate or unloving we don’t immediately assume they wanted to attack us and hurt us. We don’t immediately go into an aggressive attack mode.

We remind ourselves that in the past we have said and done things that were thoughtless, inconsiderate and unloving, and at those times we wanted our partner to understand, to tolerate our mistakes, to not hold it against us and to forgive us. And so this is what we choose to do with our partner. We accept, we tolerate, we overlook, we forgive.

We don’t need to turn every thoughtless word or action from our partner into a battlefield. We can choose to not sweat the small stuff. We can choose to remind ourselves that they love us, they care about us, they’re not trying to hurt us. We can let it go. We don’t have to make a big stink about it.

This ties into the idea of “Would you rather be right or happy?” Oftentimes, when we feel wronged, we become insistent about confronting our partner, getting in their face, demanding that they feel guilty and shamed, demanding that they own their transgression, demanding an apology. And it’s oftentimes over minor stuff. And it’s oftentimes over stuff that could be open to interpretation. For example, when we’re feeling insecure we are more likely to perceive an innocuous comment from our partner as an attack. And this prompts us to go into our attack mode.

When we go into our attack mode and insist that we are right and they are wrong, we are loving and they are not, we are cool and they are cruel, and that they need to capitulate and apologize for their horrible acts, this oftentimes causes greater polarization in the relationship, greater antagonism and resentment.

If we don’t get their capitulation, everyone is upset. If we do get their capitulation, oftentimes everyone is still upset because of all the fighting that preceded it. Point being: If we insist on getting an acknowledgment that we are right, we usually end up not being happy. If we decide to stop needing to prove that we are right and instead choose our battles and choose to not make mountains out of molehills, we end up being happy. Isn’t that the whole point of having a relationship in the first place?

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Walter E Jacobson, MD on September 12th, 2013 in Relationships, Spirituality | No comments Read related posts in , , , , ,

23 dec

Give Over to Good

RickHansonWhat is living you?
The Practice:
Give over to good.
Why?

In every moment, you and I and everyone and everything else – from quantum foam to fleeting thoughts, intimate relationships, rainforest ecosystems, and the stars themselves – are each a kind of standing wave, like the ever-changing though persistent pattern of water rising above a boulder in a river.

We are the result of multiple causes flowing through us. As Buckminster Fuller famously said, “I seem to be a verb.”

This fact is amazing, but it’s corroborated by both modern physics and deep ecology. We can get silly-cosmic about it (done this myself – not only as a college sophomore!), but the implications are very down to earth.

As unique standing waves, you and I are constructed each moment by the currents – the forces and factors, both internal and external – flowing through us. We have no choice about being lived by these currents, continually given over to them.

But we can choose to give ourselves over to the good ones. Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on December 23rd, 2011 in General, Health, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

19 nov

Give No One Cause to Fear You

RickHansonWhat puts people at ease?
The Practice:
Give no one cause to fear you.
Why?

We evolved to be afraid.

The ancient ancestors that were casual and blithely hopeful, underestimating the risks around them – predators, loss of food, aggression from others of their kind – did not pass on their genes. But the ones that were nervous were very successful – and we are their great-grandchildren, sitting atop the food chain.

Consequently, multiple hair-trigger systems in your brain continually scan for threats. At the least whiff of danger – which these days comes mainly in the form of social hazards like indifference, criticism, rejection, or disrespect – alarm bells start ringing. See a frown across a dinner table, hear a cold tone from a supervisor, get interrupted repeatedly, receive an indifferent shrug from a partner, watch your teenager turn her back and walk away . . . and your heart starts beating faster, stress hormones course through your veins, emotions well up, thoughts race, and the machinery of fighting, fleeing, freezing, or appeasing kicks into high gear.

The same thing happens in the other direction: when you send out any signal that others find even subtly threatening, their inner iguana gets going. That makes them suffer. Plus it prompts negative reactions from them, such as defensiveness, withdrawal, counter-attacks, grudges, dislike, or enlisting their allies against you.

Thus the kindness and the practical wisdom in the traditional saying, “Give no one cause to fear you.”

You can – and should – be direct, firm, and assertive. Without needing to fear you, others should expect that if they break their agreements with you or otherwise mistreat you, there will be consequences: you reserve the right to speak up, call a spade a spade, step back in the relationship if need be, take away the privileges of a misbehaving child or the job of a dishonest employee, and so on. But this is simply clarity. Rocks are hard; you don’t need to fear rocks to take their hardness into account: I know this as an aging rock climber!

Much of the time the fear – the anxiety, apprehension, unease – we trigger in others is mild, diffuse, in the background, maybe not even consciously experienced. But studies show that people can feel threatened by stimuli they’re not actually aware of. Think of the little bits of irritation, caustic tone, edginess, superiority, pushiness, nagging, argumentativeness, eye rolls, sighs, rapid fire talk, snarkiness, demands, high-handedness, righteousness, sharp questions, or put downs that can leak out of a person – and how these can affect others. Consider how few of these are necessary, if any at all – and the mounting costs of the fears we needlessly engender in others.

Think of the benefits to you and others of them feeling safer, calmer, and more at peace around you.

How?

Assert yourself for the things that matter to you. If you are sticking up for yourself and getting your needs met, you won’t be as likely to get reactive with others.

Appreciate that the caveman/-woman brain inside the head of the person you’re talking with is automatically primed to fear you, no matter how respectful or loving you’ve been. So do little things to prevent needless fears, like starting an interaction by expressing whatever warmth, joining, and positive intentions are authentic for you. Be self-disclosing, straightforward, unguarded. Come with an open hand, weaponless.

As you can, stay calm in your body. Get revved up, and that signals others that something bad could be coming.

Slow down. Fast talk, rapid instructions or questions, and quick movements can rattle or overwhelm others. Sudden events in our ancient past were often the beginning of a potentially lethal attack.

Be careful with anger. Any whiff of anger makes others feel threatened. For example, a crowded and noisy restaurant will suddenly get quiet if an angry voice is heard, since anger within a band of primates or early humans was a major threat signal.

Consider your words and tone. For example, sometimes you’ll need to name possible consequences – but watch out, since it’s easy for others to hear a threat, veiled or explicit, and then quietly go to war with you in their mind.

Give the other person breathing room, space to talk freely, a chance to preserve his or her pride and dignity.

Be trustworthy yourself, so that others do not fear that you will let them down.

Be at peace. Know that you have done what you can to help prevent or reduce fears in others. Observe and take in the benefits to you – such as others who feel safer around you give you less cause to fear them.

* * *

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and author of the bestselling Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (in 21 languages) – and Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time. Founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s taught at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and in meditation centers worldwide. His work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Consumer Reports Health, and U.S. News and World Report and he has several audio programs. His blog – Just One Thing – has nearly 30,000 subscribers and suggests a simple practice each week that will bring you more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind and heart. If you wish, you can subscribe to Just One Thing here.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on November 19th, 2011 in General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , ,

23 jun

Balancing Joining and Separating

There is a natural balance within us all between the desire for joining and the desire for separation, between the desire for closeness and the desire for distance. These two great themes – joining and separation – are central to human life. Almost everyone wants both of them, to varying degrees.

People tend to focus a lot on the joining theme, both because relationships are about – uh – joining, and because spiritual practice of any kind is fundamentally about coming into relationship with things.

Into relationship with our own suffering and that of others, and into relationship with the real causes of that suffering. Into relationship with the endlessly changing and thus impermanent nature of existence and experience. Into mindful relationship with the body, with the sense of experience being pleasant or unpleasant or neutral, with all the thoughts and feelings etc, in the mind, and with the qualities and aims of consciousness itself. And – it’s meaningful to you – into relationship with a transcendental Something: God, Buddhanature, the Infinite, unbounded Awareness . . . by whatever name.

But as important as relationship is, it is also important to bow to the other great theme, separation.

The Benefits of Separation

First, a healthy capacity for separation – or, using other words, for differentiation, individuation, autonomy, and self-expression – is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for healthy joining.

Second, autonomy is necessary for spiritual practice. Let’s consider these examples from Buddhism:

  • One is always to “see for yourself,” and make your own decisions about what makes sense to you in the teachings of the Buddha.
  • It is fundamentally up to oneself, and no one else, to engage the path of practice. No one can make us do it; we have to choose it ourselves. While Buddhism does not speak against God, it does not assert that God shapes our lives and that God’s grace is at work in our transformation.
  • We are each individually responsible for the effects of our actions – for our own karmas. Buddhism is a very gentle religion/philosophy/whatever-it-is, but it is also bluntly tough-minded.

Much as separation supports joining, experiences of healthy connection, particularly in childhood, are critical for the development of healthy self structures, ego functions, and sense of worth and confidence. By taking refuge in our feelings of connection – both present in our relationships of the moment as well as internalized from our history of relationships – we are able to move out, from a secure base, to explore and cope with the world as an individual.

For instance, in Buddhism, one of what are called the Three Jewels of practice is the Refuge of Sangha – which means the community of fellow practitioners.

Mutual Support

In other words: individuality and relationship, autonomy and intimacy, separation and joining support each other. They are often seen at odds with each other, but this is so not the case!

For example, by knowing that you are entitled to your own view of reality, that you can assert yourself appropriately, that you can disengage when you need to, that you can honor your temperament if you happen to be an introvert who is a little drained by contact and fed by solitude – then you can be more comfortable and willing to enter into the depths of joining and intimacy available in relationships, plus receive the supplies anyone needs for healthy individuation, including the attention and caring and esteem of others.

Similarly, by acknowledging, and normalizing, and respecting the need for separation and distance in others – even if it is sometimes not your preference – that helps create a zone of safety which often fosters a greater willingness to hang out for a while with closeness.

In fact, people often step back in relationships – like agreeing, perhaps tacitly, to just not talk about certain contentious topics – in order to stay close. In developmental psychology, the term is “distance in the service of attachment.”

Working out Different Desires for Closeness

Of course, in important relationships there is rarely a perfect symmetry of desires for joining and separation. That just means that it is important to be alert to the other person’s hot buttons: for many people, if they feel their autonomy is being challenged, then that pops to the top of the stack as the key issue on the table for them . . . while for many other people, the same is true regarding perceived threats to joining. By taking into account the “imperative” of the other person, you can skillfully prevent unnecessary conflicts; by explaining your own imperatives in relationships, you can help the other person understand you better.

Additionally, the natural differences between people in the priorities they give to joining compared to separation, and the differences in the ways in which they pursue those aims, are simply another thing – albeit an important one – to negotiate in relationships.

Being able to accept and own your personal joining/separation “thermostat setting” will help you to talk about it more straightforwardly and effectively with others. And you will be as able as possible to accept and work nimbly with that set point in others.

Natural Cautions about Closeness

Most psychological wounds or traumas occur in the context of relationships, including in early childhood. Further, in our evolutionary history, there were a lot of risks in encounters with people who were “not-my-tribe.” So it is natural to be a little leery of interacting at first, especially with relative strangers.

To enter into connections today with other flesh-and-blood people, and with your internal history and sense of relationships, it is skillful to be sensitive and caring toward your own alarm bells and nervousness and resistance.

It is natural to bump into those “defenses,” often subtly. It is inevitable if you are opening up, becoming more available for relationship, more accessible, more engaged, more heartfelt, more loving.

Even as you read those words, you might be aware of both the longing for those qualities in your relationships and a certain . . . squeamishness perhaps? reluctance? anxiety? repulsion??! . . . . coming up as well.

It is perfectly natural. The closer we get, often the more the impulse to distance arises – just like the more distance we get, often the more the impulse to move closer arises.

As you go through life, first and foremost, just try to bring mindfulness to these states of mind, both the longing for closeness and the desire for distance. They are a wonderful object of mindfulness and even investigation.

In accord with true mindfulness, try to maintain an accepting interest, even a kind of soft friendliness, toward the closeness and toward the distancing.

And really, if the instinct toward stepping back feels wise, or is simply too strong to push through, then please by all means follow it, and step back.

* * *

Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist and founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. His work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Consumer Reports Health, U.S. News and World Report, and Huffington Post, and he is the author of the best-selling Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom.

He writes a weekly newsletter – Just One Thing – that suggests a simple practice each week that will bring you more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind and heart. If you wish, you can subscribe to Just One Thing here.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on June 23rd, 2011 in General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 may

Put No One Out of Your Heart

RickHansonWhat is an open heart?
The Practice
Put no one out of your heart.
Why?

We all know people who are, ah, . . . challenging. It could be a critical parent, a bossy supervisor, a relative who has you walking on eggshells, a nice but flaky friend, a co-worker who just doesn’t like you, a partner who won’t keep his or her agreements, or a politician you dislike. Right now I’m thinking of a neighbor who refused to pay his share of a fence between us.

As Jean-Paul Sartre put it: “Hell is other people.”

Sure, that’s overstated. But still, most of a person’s hurts, disappointments, and irritations typically arise in reactions to other people.

Ironically, in order for good relationships to be so nurturing to us as human beings – who have evolved to be the most intimately relational animals on the planet – you must be so linked to others that some of them can really rattle you!

So what can you do?

Let’s suppose you’ve tried to make things better – such as taking the high road yourself and perhaps also trying to talk things out, pin down reasonable agreements, set boundaries, etc. – but the results have been partial or nonexistent.

At this point, it’s natural to close off to the other person, often accompanied by feelings of apprehension, resentment, or disdain. While the brain definitely evolved to care about “us,” it also evolved to separate from, fear, exploit, and attack “them” – and those ancient, neural mechanisms can quickly grab hold of you.

But what are the results? Closing off doesn’t feel good. Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on May 12th, 2011 in Family, General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 sep

Today Is All We Have

JayForteA very close friend of a good friend of mine died this morning after a difficult battle with cancer. Everyone is really sad today. Sad because we miss this great person. Sad because whatever time we had with her was not enough. Sad because we won’t be able to make new memories together. But there is wisdom in this aspect of being human.

Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen says in her book, Kitchen Table Wisdom, “…the view from the edge of life is so much clearer.” When we are faced with illness and our mortality, we realign the pieces of our life and focus on what is most important – who we touch in life and who touches us. We become wiser. And this wisdom is shared at the time of illness – ideally so we all learn and live that way each day, not just in a period of change and challenge.

Though we know this, few live with a great appreciation for the moment, the day and the people in our lives. Few of us learn this lesson until something catastrophic affects our lives.

Today is all we have. We don’t know about tomorrow. We don’t know about next week. This is not fatalistic – it is realistic. To me, this realization encourages the need for us to own each moment of our lives – to be really present. This reminds me on a daily basis that life is not a series of days to use up. Rather, life is the gift of days to use to add value, connect with others and transform the world. And everyday that our feet get to land on the floor, we get one more opportunity to be part of our world, and to bring it our best.

I find myself constantly distracted in running my own business. Because there is so much to handle, at the end of the day, I frequently don’t remember much of the day. Though I know better, I still lose sight that each moment of each day is never to be wasted or taken for granted. To that end, I am always trying to build in better “be in the moment” habits. Here are some that I find work for me:

1. Set the alarm 10 minutes earlier each day. Use the 10 minutes to think about 5 things you are grateful for. Soon you’ll find you won’t hit the snooze – you’ll look forward to your “grateful time,” and ten minutes won’t be enough. Be present.

2. Touch some part of nature. Hold onto a tree; smell flowers, grass or leaves. It connects you to this moment and the relationship that you and the planet have. You’ll also develop a greater responsibility to respect it and treat it well when it is an emotional part of your day. Be present.

3. Give someone a hug. It sounds cliché but as anyone who is on the edge of life will tell you, they crave the human touch – the moment of people and spirits connecting. Physical contact brings you into someone else’s space at this moment – and the two of you are in the moment together. You are very aware of time, of being present and feeling important to another person. Be present.

4. Smile. Even if there weren’t studies about the health effects of a positive attitude and behavior, a friendly and encouraging signal to another person impacts their world at that moment. This connection builds community. This connection creates a moment of memory in the day. Think how many people have changed your outlook just by a kind gesture, act or word. Be present.

5. Stare into a night sky and just imagine. Connect to the greatness of a moment by appreciating the size of our space – that you get to be in it, and what it feels like at this one particular moment. And when you watch the sky, you’ll notice it never remains the same – it constantly changes. Each moment is different. You become aware of each moment. You are part of each moment. Be present.

So, today is all we have. Find ways to be part of it. Be part of the lives with whom you share space at each moment. Choose to be happy. Greet each day with an attitude of gratefulness and love. Live each day as if it were your last.

Life is as great or as small as you intent it to be. And it isn’t the things that make it great. It is your connection to the people, events and moments that make it great. May you always know what the people who are at the edge of life know – that each day is important; each day is a gift. Treasure it and make it great.

Jay Forte is a business and motivational speaker, performance consultant and life coach. He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition, and the on-line resource, Stand Out and Get Hired. His new book, The Greatness Zone; Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform Your World, will be available in October 2010. He teaches people to connect to their talents and passions to be fired up! in life and at work. More information at www.LiveFiredUp.com and www.TheGreatnessZone.com.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jay Forte on September 12th, 2010 in Family, General, Health, New Directions, Personal Stories, Relationships, Spirituality, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , ,

20 may

Finding Ground in Mid-Change

ScottSchwenkHow many of you remember that old commercial in the late 70’s/early 80’s:

“How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie-roll pop?”

If I had a dollar for every time my mind had that kind of thought around my growth process, I’d be sitting on some huge cash reserves! I don’t know about you, but for me, and most of the clients I’ve worked with, future growth can’t be calculated or measured like that. Usually when my mind is asking for something like that, it’s really looking for some kind of certainty, some sense of solid ground on which to feel safe.

Recently I’ve been looking and feeling deeper than ever into some of the core layers of ego inside of me; layers that can actively distort my thoughts and emotions about nearly anything if I’m not vigilant. These are the layers of what some spiritual teachers call “inner division” – they create a feeling of being separate from the sense of well-being most people would say that strive to get to. They create a feeling of being separated from love essentially. Getting more specific, I’d call it self-love.

This afternoon while I was speaking with my friend and mentor, David Elliott, about his new book “Healing”, I was talking about my experience of working with the first exercise in the book – “Write down all the ways you love yourself.”

I told David that generally my list starts with activities, things I’ve done to or for myself that would seem loving. Yet my real sense of self-love is that it’s not based in actions, but is most definitely reflected in actions. If I do not love myself while taking a shower, it’s just a mechanical act. If I consciously actively love myself while showering, it’s a whole other experience that leaves me feeling expansive, refreshed, and full of joy.

It’s a feeling that I’m learning to cultivate and sense regardless of what I’m doing, or what’s happening around me. If my love for me is dependent on any particular set of circumstances, my love will be absent without those situations. If my willingness to move into flow and expansion is tied to what can be given to me, it can just as easily be taken away.

So far this might be sounding a little hard to wrap your head around and turn into practices that’ll abundantly reveal self-love.

For me some form of meditative practice is essential for revealing and experiencing the feeling of this love. At the moment, it’s a daily practice of sitting two times a day, once in the morning and once later in the day for a minimum of about 23 minutes. 23 minutes hasn’t got any special significance that I know of, it just happens to be the length of the CD track I’m using for meditation. Several times a week, I also practice the breathwork that I teach. Both of these constitute meditation practices that quiet my mind and open me to experiencing profound expansion, relaxation, and moments of no thoughts of any kind. There’s a palpable “Presence” that moves through my body like a buzz or humming feeling, the sense of feeling spaciousness in my cells, and an ease in my breath.

It’s also crucial for me to get some form of exercise daily. I need a combination of working with weights (which help me feel strong, grounded, and solid in my body) and cardio (which also gets my breath moving deeply and into a rhythm – excellent on the days I haven’t practiced the breathwork).

Then throughout the day, when any thought arises that carries or stimulates some form of tension or negative emotion, I’ve learned to question the truth of the thought. The best-selling author Byron Katie teaches that any thought that creates suffering indicates an argument with reality and a belief in something that isn’t true. The way to release the stuck emotion is to show myself the truth by asking myself good questions.

One of my favorite questions is “Can I know this is the absolute Truth for certain?”

And finally, keeping all the spaces I occupy clean. That goes all the way from physically cleaning and organizing my home, office, and car to maintaining the ecology of my relationships. I have a practice of regularly scrolling through the contacts in my iPhone and noticing my thoughts and body sensations. If my stomach clenches when I look at a name, I know I’ve got some work to do. And doing this work always gives me more space to breathe. It may mean questioning my beliefs or thoughts about the person, or it may mean picking up the phone and finding out if there’s an amends I need to make.

All these practices are scalable, meaning they’re to be experimented with, tried out over time, and adapted to the situations. By no means is this the end of the road on practices either. Essentially I look for practices to cover the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual…all of me.

I also check in to make sure I’m having some fun. This is a muscle I know I need to keep focused on building. If I’m not careful I can start to get a little too serious, and it’s only a few steps from seriousness to heaviness.

While excavating the Truth within, or even just navigating what’s real in a relationship, things can appear distorted and the process can feel incredibly destabilizing. It continues to be priceless for me to get more comfortable being uncomfortable, to find the solid ground I’ve been looking for within myself, where no person or circumstance can take it away. It’s a knowing.

All the things I listed above are activities that help me feel clear and awake so I can actively perceive the solid ground within. Find your own, experiment, and do something long enough to see results. Then use the results to refine your experimentation. And have some fun along the way.

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Posted by Scott Schwenk on May 20th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , ,