How to Overcome Failure

I tend to pay attention when the same thing appears over and over again in my world. Lately, this has been creativity and failure.

So I figured why not create this week’s Thoughtful Thursday on this very thing?

Just the other day, I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, Magic Lessons, with Brene Brown. Wow! 30-minutes jam-packed with nuggets of wisdom and inspiration. (Be sure to check it out if you haven't already done so.)

As I listened to them chat, it dawned on me that the same reason we give up when we experience failure (or feel as if we aren’t good enough) is the same reason many of us don’t experience the life we desire. They were totally speaking my language!

For so many of us, failure is a bad word.

This sure was true for me most of my life! And, if we have the courage to encounter it, we often use it as a reason to stop what it is we are doing.

In today's video, I address this fear and how to overcome it.

If you’re anything like me and have found that failure or shame has kept you from creating something in the world (or trying again), you won’t want to miss today’s video.

Failure is an opportunity to notice how we are—and always will be—okay. {Tweet that!}

The next time you face a little failure, be more empathetic, notice how you are still okay, and then ask yourself if you are willing to do it again.

Now it’s your turn! What is your favorite tool or technique to overcome failure? Share in the comments below so we can learn from one another and have more people who are willing to see that failure is offering us an opportunity rather than a threat.

If you know anyone who could benefit from hearing these inspirational messages about overcoming failure, please be sure to share this with them.

With love & gratitude,

P.S. Keep an eye out (or be sure to sign up) for some upcoming exciting announcements! I’m feeling into this season of change and will be offering up some new ways to deliver value and expanding some of what I already do. 

How to Have Your Ego and Beat It, Too

A recurring thought of mine as I’ve been on this journey and started my own business has been: “How do I operate from a place with no ego while building a business centered around letting go of ego?"

First of all, for those of you asking yourselves, “What in the world is she talking about? What is this ‘ego’ she keeps referring to?”

Much of how I think about the ego and what I mean when I talk about the ego is based on Eckhart Tolle’s definition of ego: "Ego is the unobserved mind that runs your life when you are not present as the witnessing consciousness, the watcher."

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How to Stay in Compassion and Out of Obligation

Recently, I've been struggling—or shall I say "dancing"—with this idea of how I can continue to "work on myself" and do it in a way that reflects my deepest belief that I am good just the way I am and there is nothing that needs to be fixed. That sounds kind of paradoxical, doesn't it?

How can I work on something without believing it needs to be fixed?

Sometimes being on a spiritual path can feel paradoxical ... and even a little frustrating.

It can feel like I'm beating myself up all the time while trying out new tools and practices (which kind of defeats the purpose).

What I'm learning is that it is possible to expand ourselves and adopt new practices without beating ourselves up.

In this video, I'm going to share with you three questions we can use to see if what we are doing is coming from a place of love and compassion or from a place of judgment and obligation.

Expansion and growth don't have to come from judgment and obligation. {Tweet that!}

Now, I'd love to hear from you.

How do you know that what you are doing is coming from a place of compassion or coming from a place of judgment?

I'd love to see what works best for you so please take a moment and share with us in the comments below this post. What you share might be just the thing someone else needs to hear today.

As we expand and grow into our deepest level of awareness, we can sometimes fall back into being critical and forcing ourselves to do things that just don't serve us. So please pass this along to anyone in your life who you think might benefit from being reminded of how we can be loving and compassionate with ourselves while on this lifelong journey!

If you want more support in staying out of judgment and truly loving the life you have, I invite you to sign up for one of my complimentary discovery sessions and sign up to receive more tips, tricks, and updates directly to your inbox.

P.S. I'm getting giddy with excitement to tell you more about a program I will be launching soon that helps people learn how to stay out of judgment and begin to SOAR!

With gratitude...

How to Have Less Stress by Cleaning up Your Beliefs: Part 1

The other day I found myself feeling a little out of sorts and kind of cranky. Then I noticed that my apartment was starting to get messy—piles of papers were forming all over my small space and dust bunnies were gathering under my book cases.

So I took some time to straighten things up and put things away and it was incredible what a difference that made!

Then it dawned on me. Just like how we need to spring clean our living spaces to feel a sense of renewal and less stress, we need to do the same thing with our beliefs from time-to-time.

Just like papers, clothes, or boxes that sit untouched for months (or years) start piling up and can add to our feeling of heaviness and dissatisfaction, our beliefs (when gone unexamined) can have the same effect.

And I started by pulling out and looking at some of my beliefs about what it means to put something out into the world that may not be "perfect." So I stepped out of my comfort zone a bit and created my first video series to walk through how I see decluttering our beliefs is a lot like decluttering our closets and it begins with pulling everything out so we can take stock of what we have.

In this first video of my 3-part series, I'll share the 3 things to remember when starting the process of cleaning out our old beliefs so we can have less stress and more peace.

Now for this week’s challenge.

I want you to begin taking stock of your thoughts, noticing how they’re showing up and how they affect your life. Ask yourself, “What happens in my body when I believe this thought? How do I act and what are the outcomes or results of that thought?” I am fascinated to find out what you learn through this process, so please take the moment and share some of your discoveries in the comments below.

This week's "tweetable:" We are not our thoughts, just like we are not the box of yearbooks or pairs of shoes in our closet. {Tweet that!}

Want to receive next week's video directly to your inbox? Be sure to sign up so as to not miss out on what we do with our beliefs once we have pulled them all out!

Ever Wondered What It Would Be like to Give Yourself a Break?

For the past couple of weeks, I was in a real funk. I was in a state of malaise pretty much every day. And I felt frustrated with myself that I couldn’t figure out why. I over-analyzed it, worried about it, and tried to make it go away.

What I noticed?

The more I fought it, the more it persisted.

So I eventually tried something else—I let myself off the hook. I allowed myself to be in a funk. I gave myself what I needed in the moment.

Maybe you’ve been in a funk or given yourself a hard time for feeling a certain way before, too.

What I learned is that the greatest gift we can give ourselves during times like these is a break.

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Three Familiar Symptoms of Not Being Good Enough

Launching a new business really brings up a bunch of sh*t. The amount of self-doubt and insecurity this brings up for me is pretty incredible. My inner critic just loves itself a new opportunity to get into my head.

It challenges me each and every day to remember that I am good enough.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here. Most of us walk around each day and, one way or another, think we’re not good enough.

Whether or not we acknowledge it to others—or even to ourselves—I have started to notice a few common symptoms that crop up when we live a life apologizing for who we are.

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10 Simple Ways to Truly Love the Life You Have

One of my favorite things to do is read people’s "top 10” lists. It feels like I’m receiving a ridiculously short “how to” guide on life.

I wanted to create my own and share how I put some of what I’ve learned into practice to honestly love the life I have and have more of the life I want.

I’ve gone from feeling depressed, anxious, constantly stressed and worried to feeling way more calm, compassionate, at peace and in love with myself just the way I am.

Don’t get me wrong. It took more than just doing these 10 things, but each of these now contribute to a much happier and more joyful experience.

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What I've Learned from Breaking up with My Ego

Have you ever been in that situation when it came time to “have the talk” or DTR (Define the Relationship)?

I’ve had it a few times in my life. It’s not a comfy thing for me to do. But in each situation, I’m glad I did. It helped me get clearer on who I am and what I want and how this other person plays into that (or not).

A couple of years ago, I realized that I needed to have this conversation with someone who I had known for a very long time and who had been with me through thick and thin — my ego.

And I can tell you, it’s not easy. But having a clearer understanding of our dynamic has made my life so much easier.

We all have an ego.

And our ego has played an important role since a very young age. It  helped protect us from this big, bad world when we were at a place in our development when we needed it most.

And like with any relationship, there comes a time when we need to take a closer look at it.
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We get to a point when we realize the ego no longer serves us.

So how do we let the ego down easy and reclaim our relationship with our self?

Recognize its individuality.

The ego loves to talk. A lot. The first place we can notice our ego is in our thoughts. And by the very nature of observation, when we can observe our thoughts (our ego) then we can be confident that we are separate from it.

When we recognize that we are not our ego, the conversation gets a whole lot easier.

Give it some love.

The ego just wants to be seen and heard. It wants to be acknowledged. So go ahead and give it what it wants. Say “thank you for sharing” when it butts in and gives advice on how to respond to that text message or comments on that woman’s attitude.

The ego isn’t trying to be a jerk — it just doesn’t know any better.

Next time the ego interferes, give it a wink and a smile.

Learn what matters to it most.

The ego gets its sense of self by identifying with all sorts of things — thoughts, labels, roles, material possessions. Remember, it is trying to protect us and is doing the best job it can to make sure we are okay. So it latches on to anything it thinks will make life better. Sadly, it doesn’t know that we are already okay. Take note of what it identifies with most — the car, the role as leader, the label of “shy,” the thought “I could never do that."

Trying to force the ego to let go of attachments is impossible — but as awareness grows, the attachments will begin to drop away because we start to notice that we are separate from all these things.

Get to know its patterns.

The ego uses some incredible strategies to help us out in situations that seem scary or uncomfortable. Maybe the ego withdraws each time it finds itself feeling attacked. Or perhaps the ego puffs up its chest and yells at someone who confronts it.

Take note of these tendencies — they are just a way for the ego to help make sure we feel okay.

The next time the ego wants to crack a joke in a stressful situation, don’t say anything and notice what happens. I can pretty much guarantee that you will still be standing and completely unharmed.

Once we understand that we are okay without the ego’s help, then we are stepping into our truly awakened self.

Now the ego is pretty tenacious. (Some women wish more men were this way.) And just because we have this conversation once doesn’t mean it’s going to go away.

Having an ego is a part of life. Redefining the relationship with the ego is enlightenment. {Tweet That!}

What is one pattern you observe your ego doing in moments of stress or conflict? Share in the comments below and serve as an inspiration of self-observation to others.

Wannabe Your Valentine? 3 Ways to Reclaim This Holiday

Valentine’s Day is just one day out of 365. Hard to believe, right? I find that no matter if I’m single or in a relationship this day seems to dangle over my head (and in my subconscious) for the entire month of February.

Even this year, I actively decided not to make Valentine’s a big deal and here I am writing an entire article about it!

It feels nearly impossible to ignore — so I decided to approach it from a different angle this year.

It’s not just about chocolates, teddy bears and cute couples going out to eat.

I know it sometimes feels this way. Our society has done a phenomenal job of getting us to buy into it hook, line and sinker. But there is another way of looking at it.

Love is all around! And love is a beautiful and essential thing.

And for all my single peeps reading this, that might not feel so great. Or maybe it feels like something to celebrate! Either way, it is up to us how we want to interact with this holiday.

At the end of the day, Valentine’s is a great opportunity to pause and remember to love thyself.

We all know the importance of self-love. It is at the root of our ability to love others; at the core of our own satisfaction with life; and it serves as the foundation from which all growth and self-realization begin.

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o-SELF-LOVE-facebook

This time of year actually provides us with loads of opportunity to see the beauty within and boost our own happiness.

And this is exactly what happens as we begin to be more conscious and mindful in life. So here is how we can use Valentine’s as a fantastic excuse to practice awakening to our authentic self.

Actively look for love and beauty.

The world is our mirror. This means when we see things in others that cause our skin to prickle, there’s a really good chance that exists somewhere deep in our dark corners.

But this also means that when we see a couple truly in love sharing a romantic moment or notice the beauty of the sunset or admire the beauty of a rose, this love and beauty exist within us.

We can only know these things to be what they are if we have some experience of them. And that experience is part of who we are and what we are capable of in the world.

Connect with others.

Use this time of year to reach out to family, friends, strangers on the street or support your favorite cause. When we connect, we have a positive impact on our brain. We are social creatures and are meant to connect with others.

And when we remember that we all want the same things in life — to feel loved and and a sense of belonging — we can extend more compassion to others.

Connection and feeling compassion for others boosts our natural anti-depressants and increases real happiness.

Celebrate YOU!

Do something nice for yourself. Use this time to celebrate all that you have done and all that you are. Write yourself a love letter or take yourself to dinner.

Another thing we can do is expand on the feel-good thoughts we sometimes have. When you notice a positive thought, ask these four questions from Elisha Goldstein.

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it possible that it’s true?
  3. If you step into that possibility for a moment, how does that make you feel?
  4. Can I allow myself to linger in this feeling for a few moments?

These questions bring you straight into the present moment. For another great resource on mindfulness and presence, check out this post from Relax Like a Boss.

When we actively love ourselves first and practice self-care, we create space to let go of the judgments, expectations and negative thoughts and experience a deeper sense of self.

No matter what our status, we can celebrate Valentine’s Day in a self-nurturing way.

It’s up to us to reclaim this holiday (and all other 364 days) as a day to celebrate our authentic inner essence and experience more peace and joy.

What is your favorite self-nurturing ritual? What else would you add to make this holiday more about self-love? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

The #1 Reason We Don't Experience Unconditional Love

Unconditional love.

You know, the kind we see in the movies. The kind where the person can do no wrong and are loved fully and truly as they are. Ah, so beautiful.

I must admit, I’m one of those sappy romantics who believe it’s possible and wants nothing more than to experience it in my own life.

And, boy, do I try. I want nothing more than to love my partner unconditionally — so why is it so hard sometimes?

I’m not suggesting that to give unconditional love is easy but I wondered if I might be missing something. I realized I was going about it in the wrong order. I was focusing all of my efforts on loving him unconditionally. And when I found myself feeling frustrated when I couldn’t seem to muster up the ability to do it, I couldn’t quite understand why.

What does it even mean to love unconditionally? According to one article I read, it means releasing judgment and accepting others as they are and choosing to act in a loving manner always.

Have you ever wanted unconditional love?

Or maybe you’re one of those people who believe it doesn't exist. I don’t blame you. It’s hard to believe it exists when we experience it so seldom and when most of us have been going about it all wrong.

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If we want to experience unconditional love, we have to start by giving it to ourselves.

This was my big “ah-ha” moment. Maybe it’s painfully clear to everyone else but it just recently clicked for me. I began to realize that if we can’t love ourselves unconditionally we’ll never be able to experience unconditional love elsewhere.

Why?

Well, because the way we see ourselves is how we see the world. So, if there is something I don’t like about myself, it’s going to become a sore spot for me when I see it another.

How can we have unconditional love for someone who possesses the qualities or does things that we don’t like about ourselves? We can’t.

Before we can even begin to love someone else fully and truly for who they are, we first must love ourselves that way.

How?

Stop judging ourselves.

That voice that says “I can’t believe you just did that” or “That was so stupid” or “Why am I always so needy?” needs to go. Judgment is a total joy kill and it makes loving ourselves unconditionally impossible. When we judge ourselves we are placing a condition on ourselves that says “If only I were better, then I could love myself."

Accept ourselves for who we are.

Yup, despite the number on the scale or what others say about us or how much money we have in the bank. Life is cyclical. It ebbs and flows. We have ups and downs. We need to remember that in this moment we accept where we are. It might not be where we “want to be" but that doesn’t matter. When we are unwilling to accept who we are we are placing a condition on ourselves that says, “If only I were different, then I could love myself."

Choose to act in a loving manner with ourselves — always.

This shows up in how we talk to ourselves and how we take care of ourselves. Do we say kind things? Do we get enough sleep? Do we fuel our bodies with healthy foods? Do we care for ourselves the way we would care for another? Do we put our needs first? When we choose not to act in a loving manner we are placing a condition on ourselves that says, “When I feel good about myself, then I can treat myself better."

If we are unwilling to love ourselves in this way, we can’t expect to show it to others.

Because each time they do something that irks us or triggers us, it will be so much harder for us to accept it and not judge it if we haven’t first developed that same kind of compassion within ourselves.

It’s a heck of a lot easier to accept someone for being late when we have already done the work to accept ourselves those times when we did the same thing.

Let’s do the work ourselves first. Then, we can think about extending this type of love to others.

And once we’ve learned how to love ourselves unconditionally and begin to extend that to those around us, we create space for them to do the same thing.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

What is one way you can show yourself more unconditional love? Share below and inspire others by leading the charge and providing some food for thought.

How to Move from Comparison to Self-Acceptance

A friend and I were chatting the other day and she mentioned that she felt discouraged about her yoga practice because she had been comparing herself to how often I was going. I giggled when she said this because I had just that morning felt discouraged when I couldn’t get myself out of bed thinking how she always gets up early and accomplishes so much in the morning. It was so funny to me that both of us saw the other as being better or doing more when in reality we both are amazing and wonderful in our own, unique way.

Have you ever gone on Facebook or Instagram and thought to yourself, “everyone’s life seems so happy and amazing … why isn’t mine like that all the time?"

When we compare ourselves to others, we deny all the beautiful, authentic qualities we possess and think that who we are in this moment is not good enough.

So how do we move from comparison to self-acceptance?

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The practice of mindfulness is about celebrating and cultivating our authentic self in each and every moment. By practicing a few simple techniques, we create more space and opportunity to feel compassion, acceptance and love the person we are in this moment.

When we are about to compare ourselves with others, it is a great opportunity to check in and try a few simple things.

    • Take a moment or two and observe what is going on inside. Is there a feeling or a thought? Just check in with non-judgmental awareness and allow the feeling or thought to exist.
    • Gently remind yourself that every time we look at someone else as being more or having more, someone is most likely saying the same thing about us. This can help us experience more compassion for ourself and for others.
    • Shift the thought from "what others have or do" to “what do I have or do” and celebrate who you are even if in that particular moment there is doubt or anger or fear or frustration. Allow yourself to be reminded of the things you do well.

Especially with social media, it can seem nearly impossible to avoid comparing ourselves with others. It is something I struggle with on an ongoing basis. But, the more often I practice mindfulness, the more often I am aware of when I start to go down that path and how to navigate back out and into my beautiful, amazing, unique self.

When we accept and celebrate who we are in each moment, we experience so much more peace and joy in our lives. Of course, this won’t happen overnight and is an ongoing practice — but each time we remind ourselves to check in and have more self-love, it gets a little bit easier.

What are three wonderful, unique qualities you can celebrate today? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

How to Live a Soulful Existence by Setting Intentions for the New Year

On the last day of the year, it is a great opportunity to set aside some time and come up with our intentions for the year to come.

Resolutions are the more common list we each make as we approach the first of the year. However, these firm decisions do not seem to support a mindful existence as well as an intention which allows for the ebb and flow that life most certainly will bring.

As we embark on a new year — another 365 days of possibility — let’s do so in an intentional way, creating a guide from which we can make mindful, soulful decisions in each and every moment that support and uphold the life we want.

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I have tried many things in the past from resolutions to goals to simply remaining open to what life may bring — each with varying levels of success. This year I wanted to try something new.

A friend of mine challenged me to come up with my intentions for 2015. It was a beautiful exercise of sitting with myself and getting in touch with not just what I want to do next year but how I want to live.

With her challenge in mind, I sat down and thought about how a person might identify one’s intentions. These are more than just a list of goals or a list of things to start or stop doing. They are how we want to experience life in each moment. They serve as a guide that directs each of our decisions and helps us manifest that which we want to see more of in the world.

To identify one's intentions — and not just a list of resolutions — I suggest trying the following things:

Get quiet

Whether this is through meditation or simply observing the thoughts in our head and letting them be, getting quiet allows us to get in touch with our deeper, inner self — the wisdom within.

Reflect on the past year

When we make a list of our accomplishments, we can celebrate all that we already possess and how powerful we can be. To do this, a mentor of mine encourages us to close our eyes and visualize the person we were on January 1, 2014 (physically, emotionally, spiritually). Then, step out of that person and take a “mental walk” towards the person we are today (physically, emotionally, spiritually), identifying all of the accomplishments along the way.

It is equally important to identify any areas where we didn’t necessarily hit the mark — not so that we can judge or experience any self-hate (see #3) but rather so that we can realistically accept where we are currently.

Avoid judgement of self, others and situations

It is inevitable that things on our to-do list never got checked off or we didn’t reach some of our goals. That is okay. It is important to remember that life is a journey, not a destination. Instead of judging our current situation, simply observe it. Equally it is helpful not to compare ourselves with others. We are all on our own path and are exactly where we need to be at this very moment.

Get in touch with what we want to have more of in life

Once we have identified what we experienced as accomplishments and areas where we still want to improve, we can ask ourselves what feeling or experience we want to have more of in life. These will most likely start showing up as themes as we look at each accomplishment and ask “what was I going for here?” or “what did I experience/feel when I accomplished this?” We can ask the same of those areas where we want to improve by asking ourselves “if I did (more of) this, what do I expect to feel/experience?” These feelings or experiences can serve as our intentions — our inner wisdom and guide — from which we hang everything else.

We can still set goals that uphold our intentions and are illustrative of what we plan to experience. Just remember that goals — like life — change and need to be continuously reexamined and modified to fit current situations. So long as our decisions uphold and illustrate our intentions, we can live a mindful, soulful, intentional existence.

When you think about what you have accomplished and what you still want to improve upon, what feeling or experience are you looking to have more of in your life? 

Being Grateful Can Happen Without the Turkey

In the spirit of Thanksgiving this week, I am reposting my blog on gratitude and its benefits. Enjoy the holiday season and remember that being grateful can be a daily practice — even when there is no turkey.

There are plenty of things to complain about in this world. But there are also a ton of amazing (and not-so-amazing, quite ordinary) things that are worthy of our acknowledgment on a daily — if not hourly — basis. Practicing gratitude has a number of benefits. And who wants to be a “Negative Nancy” all the time?

Curious what these benefits are and how to cultivate them on a regular basis?

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I admit, I have said many a negative thing in my life. But I don't like the way I feel when I say those things. When those negative thoughts start to emerge — which they still do — I immediately try to interrupt them and ask "what are you grateful for?"

Then I list off three or five things that I am grateful for in this very moment.

It is amazing how much better I feel and how quickly those terrible things don't seem so terrible anymore.

Expressing gratitude can sometimes slip our minds. But the benefits far outweigh the effort required to implement a regular gratitude practice.

There is a growing body of knowledge in this area led by highly esteemed researchers such as Robert Emmons, Ph.D. Check out some of the benefits found during this gratitude research.

  • In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
  • A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.
  • daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others). There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.
  • In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.

"So, how do I go about doing this more often?" you might ask.

Establish a system that works for you. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep a gratitude journal and list a few things in it each day before going to bed that made you smile or that you were grateful for.
  • Participate in or create a gratitude challenge on Facebook with your friends to post 3 “grate” things on a daily basis.
  • Ask a friend to be your “Gratitude Buddy” and send each other one thing you are grateful for each day — not only does it reap the benefits, it helps you develop a deeper connection with a friend you might not otherwise connect with as often. Next time you find yourself saying something negative, try the gratitude treatment. I bet you'll have an easier time finding things to be grateful for than having to complain about.

What are 3-5 things you are grateful for right now? Spread the gratitude bug by sharing your thoughts below.

The Power of the Domino Effect

Kindness Blog has generously published another Presence Matters blog on the power of the Domino Effect. dominos-1

One of my favorite things to do when I was a child was to line up dozens of dominoes in an interesting configuration, tip one of them over and watch all the others elegantly follow suit.

Sometimes I think that people are a bit like dominoes.

When one of us is “nudged” to do something good, many others elegantly follow suit.

Read the article to see how one person's seemingly small action can spur positive change.

Improve Your Relationships by Remembering These 3 Things

Have you ever struggled with maintaining a centered sense of self whilst in an intimate relationship? Maintaining this more enlightened state seems to get harder the closer we get to people. Relationships offer a number of challenges including how they seem to make this whole “presence thing” more difficult.

In the hopes to make this a bit easier, I started to pay attention to when I felt further from my centered self and what seems to help put me back on the more mindful path.

Through this exploration, I discovered that we can all experience more conscious relationships by remembering three important things.

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I’ve recently taken a lot of time to get to know myself and work on me. I began to notice that I am making some significant strides in terms of how I interact with myself, how I interact with my friends and how I move through the world as a more present, mindful human.

Then … I got into a romantic relationship.

This was my first serious relationship in two years. And, with my new sense of self, I started to think that maybe I had figured out this whole relationship thing after all.

Then it started to become obvious to me that the work I did with myself didn’t necessarily translate seamlessly to being with another person.

I was reminded that there are still deeper, darker areas I have yet to explore and work on in order to be more mindful and conscious when with another person and not simply moving through life alone.

Strive to be wrong

Going with the flow can come quite naturally to us. Humans are great at enduring change. We are highly adaptive. And, yet, have you noticed how ironclad fisted we can get about being “right”? It can cause so much unnecessary pain and suffering — specifically in close relationships. Not only can it harm the other person at the receiving end of our righteousness, it also hinders us from growing.

In order to learn and grow, we must be wrong. Think about it, if we know everything already then there is nothing left we can learn. If we are not learning, we cannot grow.

It is only when we release our hold on being “right” that we can truly be open and enjoy the beauty of a close relationship.

Take responsibility for our emotions

“He just makes me so mad.” “She ruined the whole evening.” “He really gets under my skin.”

When we say things like this we are immediately casting blame outside ourselves for how we feel and react in this world. Sometimes it might seem like the actions of others cause our reactions or feelings — but this is not the case. The actions of others do have effects in the world just as our actions have effects. However, our emotions and thoughts are purely the effect of our own causes.

The more we can take responsibility for our inner state of being and release the need to be responsible for someone else's, the easier and more peaceful life becomes.

Notice what the other person exposes in us

When we see something we like, it’s a projection of what we like within ourselves. When we think someone is angry, it’s a projection of what we know anger to look like based on how we react when we’re angry. When we allow ourselves to get irritated with something (or someone), it is because that thing reminds us of a trait we have and don’t like.

It is through this exposure that we can choose to either get angry and push people away or expect them to change, or we can use this as an opportunity to more deeply explore ourselves and better understand what it is we are uncomfortable having exposed.

It is by exploring the parts of ourselves that we don’t like — not changing others — that we can experience happier and healthier relationships with ourselves and with others.

When we are wiling to be wrong, take responsibility for our emotions and examine the dark corners of ourselves, we can experience empowering, sustainable relationships — whether they are with the stranger in the supermarket or with our lifelong partner.

What tips do you have for being more mindful in relationships? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Being Mindful Doesn't Mean Not Making Mistakes

Have you ever gotten frustrated with yourself for not being as calm and centered as you would like to be? I have. Quite a bit.

I often forget that mindfulness is not just another thing to “get right." Somehow I get it in my head that just because I practice presence that means I will always behave in a mindful way. That I can “master” mindfulness. No pressure or anything.

But Eckart Tolle reminds us that as soon as we notice we are not being present, we are present. That is the whole point.

Mindfulness is an ongoing, lifelong exercise in reminding ourselves to be in the present moment. This will happen over and over and over again.

And the more often I can remind myself that my mind is focused more in the past or future and not on what is happening in the moment, the more I strengthen my mindfulness muscle.

Head in Hands

As a recovering perfectionist and over-achiever, I really want to “master” mindfulness. I somehow think that once I “figure it all out” I will always act in a mindful way. No stress, no resistance, no attachment, pure bliss, above being human.

Well, that’s not how it works.

I am human — even the Dalai Lama "makes mistakes" and is a lifelong student of mindfulness. Just because I have learned how to be more aware and experience a higher level of consciousness than I did, say, two years ago does not mean that I still don’t make mistakes.

Being mindful is not about being perfect. Being mindful is about being in each moment as often as possible, showing compassion to myself and others as often as possible, and fully experiencing my life situation as it is as often as possible.

For some of us, it might be helpful to be reminded that we are not superwomen and supermen. Though it can be easy to think that sometimes.

The path to enlightenment has twists and turns and roots and rocks and many stumbling blocks along the way. It’s not about avoiding the pitfalls; it’s about staying on the path in spite of them.

When we choose to practice presence, this does not mean we aren’t still human and make mistakes. If you find yourself forgetting that you are an imperfect human like the rest of us while on your path to more peace and ease in your life, gently remind yourself of these things:

All you can do is do your best.

And remember that “best” is not “perfect.” Imagine if each of us were more mindful just 10% more of the time. It doesn’t have to be 100% (and in reality won’t be) to make a positive difference.

Be compassionate.

Love yourself for being bold enough to try. Being mindful isn’t always comfortable. Failure is not an indicator of a lack of ability — it is a reminder of where our current limitations are and an opportunity to grow.

Pick yourself up and try again.

When you catch yourself judging or resisting or attaching to what is (or was or might be), give yourself a little grace for even noticing this (that’s already a huge step!) and then try again.

We can all strive to be more mindful in our lives while accepting that we are merely human. Mindfulness does not have an end date of completion. There is no certificate or title to achieve. This means we get to work on it each and every day for the rest of our lives. And the mistakes we make along the way are simply opportunities to learn more about ourselves and continue to grow.

How have you noticed yourself trying to “master” personal growth? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

3 Ways to Turn Your Yoga Practice Upside Down

For many people, yoga is more than just a physical activity. It is also a mental and spiritual experience — often described as being quite meditative. But if you’re anything like me — and many other people I see and hear in my yoga class — it sometimes doesn’t feel that way. Have you ever noticed that the much-desired zen experience feels more akin to frustration or defeat than to an enlightened state?

Well, the good news is that you can turn your yoga practice into a deeper, more enlightened experience by doing three simple things.yoga pose

I have been practicing Bikram Yoga for almost two years and it is amazing how it wasn’t until very recently when I realized that I could use these 90 minutes for more than just practicing the 26 postures and getting my body into shape. This was an amazing opportunity to strengthen my ability to be mindful and present.

As someone who loves to “get it right” and “be the best,” I struggled with turning my yoga practice into anything beyond pushing myself to be better, stronger, calmer and mentally beating myself up when I felt like I wasn’t living up to that.

Then I had a breakthrough. And I turned my yoga practice around 180 degrees by doing these 3 things.

Change the track I listen to in my head.

90 minutes is a long time to keep the mind from wandering off and getting lost in the top hits track of the day. My solution? First, I found when I focus deeply on the words the instructor is saying instead of boarding each thought train that raced through my mind, I remained more present. Secondly, I changed the track in my mind from saying things like, “this is so hard” or “I’m so hot” or “why can’t I hold this posture like I could yesterday?” to “I am here … in this moment … and in this moment … and in this moment” over and over again keeping my thoughts more constant and present and, therefore, being able to better listen to my body.

Change the mask I wear.

I can scowl and grunt and tighten up my face when the postures feel challenging or I can choose to keep my face relaxed and even squeeze out a smile during a challenging pose. By making this small shift, I allow myself to relax, breathe and stay present with my body in that moment. I also find that when I exert less energy on reacting to a difficult posture, I have more energy to give to that posture and it becomes easier.

Practice continuous compassion.

I remind myself that I am constantly changing and I am different each and every day. My practice today is going to be different than my practice two days ago. If I need to sit down or come out of a posture early today, that’s okay. And, if I can change the track in my head it is actually easier to hear what my body needs in each moment and then I can be compassionate with myself when my body needs something today that it might not have needed yesterday.

Whether you are an avid yogi or just a fan of staying limber, you can use your yoga practice to not only deepen your exercise of body and soul but also deepen your practice of living in the present. By doing so, your practice will enrich your life in more ways than you can imagine!

What do you do to make yoga a more meditative experience? Share your tips and tricks by leaving a comment.

Give the Gift of Presence: Try These Three Things

I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me. How often have you sincerely been able to say this? Or received this from another person?

Being able to truly be present when listening to someone else can be extremely difficult. It’s one thing to be present with oneself—noticing sensations, feelings and thoughts as they come and go. But, it is a whole other practice to do this same thing when in dialogue with someone else.

As Oprah Winfrey noted, people want to be seen and heard. And it is a great exercise for us to practice presence when given this opportunity.

We all can give the gift of presence when listening by doing these three things.

Attentive Listening

For all of the work I do to live a mindful and present existence, I still find it extremely difficult sometimes to be fully present when listening to another person. I’m either judging what they say or planning what I am going to say next or interrupting them to prove my point or negate what they said.

Sound familiar?

And, yet, none of these things are a practice in presence.

True presence requires me to refrain from judgment and simply observe what is said, felt or heard; to be in the moment and not be thinking about the future; to release expectations or attachment to specific outcomes; and to quiet my ego by detaching from my thoughts and beliefs.

"But who would I be if I didn’t argue that professional football players get paid a ridiculous amount of money?! I need to defend that and make sure everyone knows how I feel about it!”

Or … I could simply notice that thought for what it is—just a thought. And note that this particular thought causes my blood to boil and my heart to race—for some reason. And remember that this thought is not “me” so there is no need for me to defend or prove “myself."

One of the most beautiful gifts we can give another is our presence by truly listening to and hearing them. When we are completely in the moment and can release any attachment to our own beliefs and expectations of another, we can truly hear that person without the need to craft a response or interject with our own ideas or even feel the need to defend.

Next time you are having a conversation and want to practice the gift of presence, try these three things:

Breathe, breathe, breathe.

I know it keeps coming back to the breath but we often forget just how powerful it is. If you are focused on your breath, it’s kind of hard to speak.

Listen to what is said and notice how you react—then let it go. 

Acknowledge any judgmental reactions or remarks that cross your mind, thank your inner voice for sharing and then let the thought go like a cloud dissolving in the sky.

Recognize what is your responsibility. 

It is not your responsibility to “fix” or “change” another person. It is also none of your business what they think or feel. You are responsible for what you believe and how you react. Be aware of when you start taking on responsibility for others and then kindly resign yourself from that job.

It’s not to say that you will always agree with everything everyone says—or need to, for that matter. But when you practice being present and truly listening to another person and learn how to check your ego at the door, you honor that person and yourself while cultivating peace.

What is one thing you can do the next time you engage in a discussion with someone to practice giving your gift of presence? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

3 Things That Happen When You Have Inner Peace

How many times have you heard a child share a dream for world peace? Or read an article on achieving peace between war-torn countries? Or felt a sense of hopelessness when watching the news?

This dream for world peace can sometimes feel like an unattainable goal, and rightly so. How can we expect the world to do what we resist doing ourselves?

"So, what am I to do?" you might ask. 

Well, we must first end the internal war with ourselves and with those around us before we can expect the entire world to follow suit.

By doing this, you will notice three things begin to happen that make "world peace" much more attainable.

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I am a dreamer. I also don’t like conflict. So, the dream of world peace is one that I have had for a very, very long time. History upsets me. The news discourages me. And, I began to wonder if there was any hope anymore.

Then I started to focus on what I can control — my personal peace — and took steps towards that in my own life. The result? The world got a little brighter and my faith was renewed.

What might happen if each of us learn how to be at peace with the woman in line at the grocery store who has more than 10 items in the express lane or with the driver who cut you off or with the feeling of loneliness or with what your life situation happens to be in this very moment?

The world begins to look very different when we have inner peace.

“And, how do I go about having inner peace?” you might wonder.

By not judging, resisting or attaching to what is but simply letting it be. When we do this, three things happen:

We become more compassionate and grateful for our differences.

When we bring a non-judgmental awareness to our own and others’ emotions and actions, we begin to recognize that there is more common ground than first suspected — we all want to end our own suffering — and every exchange with another human is an opportunity, not a threat.

We create space from which to respond rather than react.

When we accept what is, we can mindfully respond from a fully grounded, open place without projecting any expectations on the situation or person involved.

We quiet the ego.

When we are not attached to how things “are” or “should be,” we remove personal attachment to ideologies, beliefs and stories we have told ourselves that often cause conflict.

What if we all spent as much time and energy on our inner peace as we do on demanding peace amongst others?

I suspect peace between neighbors, tribes and countries would be a whole lot easier to achieve if we were all at peace with ourselves first.

“The peace we seek in the world is first found within.” ~ Harold W. Becker

What is one thing you can do in the next 30 days to have more peace in your life? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

Thank You for Sharing - Lesson #3

Evolution is a process. Life is a journey, not a destination. Transformation takes time. As I continue growing, changing, learning, evolving, I find that sometimes I “fall short” and need to be reminded of the lessons I am trying to learn and strategies to move me forward. This week I am going to share one “lesson” a day that has recently come in handy for me and might serve as a helpful reminder for others. I thank my inner voice for what it has to share.photo-62

Over the years, I have found that the voice(s) in my head can be very loud and convincing sometimes. I have spent much of my life listening to and dialoguing with these inner voices. You know, like when my mind (aka ego) says things like “he must not be telling me the truth,” “she doesn’t really mean that,” “he must have met someone else,” “he must not love me,” or a myriad of other thoughts formed from my own invention. When my mind starts to make-believe or say “what if,” I now simply acknowledge that voice by saying “thank you for sharing” rather than engaging with it or trying to argue with it or even stop it from occurring. I thank it for what it has to share and I move on with my day.

If you were to give your inner voice a name, what would it be? I have named mine “Magda.” Join the conversation by leaving a comment.