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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Where Are You Going in 2012

"If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading." ~ Lao Tsu



As the new year approaches, I am reminded to be grateful for this wondrous opportunity ahead. They say, ”Life is for the living”. I would like to improve that concept and say, “Life is for lucid living”. Each year I reflectively review my life. I evaluate what is working, what needs changing, what needs eliminating, and things I haven’t experienced on my bucket list. Then, I start a personal vision statement for the coming year. This is basically an updated vision of my personal expression and dream of life. 

Starting my vision statement , I like to evaluate a number of different aspects of life and set the tone for the next year. These areas of life are: physical well being, emotional well being, spiritual practices, financial growth, relationships, creative endeavors, and life experiences. As I create my vision for the future I write everything down and use the magic words “I AM” at the beginning of each statement. By using I AM you are generating an energy of already being there, not the energy of wanting, or trying, but being that which you envision. This has worked well for me every time I use it.


 Examples: 


 I AM eating food that is good for my body and limiting my junk food intake.

I AM learning Tai Chi.

I Am experiencing a respectful and loving relationship with my spouse. 

The magic of "I AM" sets intent in motion and really sets the stage for experiencing the energy of the goal from a standpoint of it already being manifest. If you can hold this point of view with intense feelings of loving passion and joy you will have the key to creating your dream of life. Using the “I AM” along with continuing to passionately focus on my vision throughout the year ,(I put it where I will see it everyday and take a few moments to vision), leads to opportunities for manifestation. By focusing my attention on where I am going and what I will experience, doors of opportunity will suddenly appear and I will naturally plan and take steps toward these opportunities. 

I will also naturally make choices that are in alignment with my vision. For example, if my vision is better health, I will start eating better or joining a sport. If it is financial growth I will continually be open to opportunities and take appropriate action to reach the goal. If it is experiencing a stronger relationship with another person then I will schedule time to connect with this individual and work on unconditional acceptance of this person.

 For each vision you hold, there will be action steps to take throughout the year. Each step you take will align you with your vision more and more. Some visions will be easily manifested in few steps. Others will take many small steps and more time than one year. Either way, you are moving along in life with lucidity, not being pushed through life asleep and lost. So, I ask you, “Where are you going in 2012?” It is your choice.

Monday, December 26, 2011

You Never Have to Do Anything


Do you feel that there isn't enough free time in the day to do everything you'd like to do? Realize that everything you do is exactly what you have chosen to do, and therefore you should do it with all your heart. There is no "free" time, just time. You can either spend it in joyful awareness, or spend it wishing you were doing something else, building feelings of resentment. It's a matter of committing yourself to whatever you are doing at the time. Either do it with joy, or don't do it.

I used to resent doing housework, especially washing the floors.  Then I realized that I choose to do it, no one is forcing me to wash floors.  I choose it because I want clean floors.  Why should I resent doing something that I choose to do? Now I put the radio on and practice singing while washing.  It becomes a joyful chore.

I often hear people complain about having to take care of their parents, grandparents or children's needs.  "I have to take Johnny to karate and then help him with homework, I have no time for myself."  Well, actually, the time you have with Joey in the car is time for building your relationship.  The time you are waiting for his karate lesson is time you could be reading, meditating, or catching up on phone calls.  The time you are helping with homework, you are fostering a better understanding of your child and nurturing his academic growth.  What part of these examples is wasted time?  All of it, if you are doing it with resentment in your heart.   

Lesson:

You never have to do anything. What you do with your time is your choice.

Exercise:

Be free to experience your time with awareness and joy.  Don't be a victim of your ego mind telling you that you could be doing something else instead.  These types of thoughts create unease and stress. Realize that you are free to spend your time however you choose.  Time is always free, are you?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Happiness Recipe

Holiday Happiness Recipe

Ingredients:  Spirit, Family, Friends, Presence

The key to making Happy Holidays is to remember the meaning behind the Holidays is based in spiritual traditions.  The purpose of all the Holidays this season is to honor and celebrate Spirit.  If we look at the word Holiday it is a combination of Holy and day, thus a Holiday is a Holy day by definition.  So the main ingredient in our recipe for happy Holidays is to remember why we are celebrating in the first place. Take time to ponder the spiritual significance of your faith as you perform the various rituals of the Holy day.  In addition to any customary practices of the Holiday, you may wish to incorporate some personal reflection time, where you can relax as well as renew your spirit.  Try this simple fire meditation:


Light the Fire Within:

Oh, Lord, we honor thee, With fire burning bright Reflecting the warm delight In our hearts tonight.
Tonight, light a candle or sit by an open fire, and take a few minutes to connect with Spirit. Concentrate on the flickering of the flames, as you gently release the outside world.  Breath deeply and slowly, allowing all thoughts to flow by without attachment.  Relax into the light.  Feel the love of Spirit in the warmth.  Relax and rejuvenate your soul. ♥ ♥ ♥
The next ingredient in our Happy Holidays is to mix together family, friends, and presence.  Of all the holidays past, what I remember most is the warmth and love I felt at the many family feasts and friendly gatherings. I remember not the physical presents, but the physical presence of those I loved and those who loved me.  It is not the temporary toy or gift certificate that you will recall many years later.  You will remember the love, the acceptance, the laughter, and the joy of being together.  Give the gift of presence and you give the gift of loving memories for a lifetime.
My friends, make the Holidays Happy,  
many blessings~
Laura

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Power of Silence



In Eastern cultures it is a natural part of growing up.  Their children are taught, and regularly practice meditation to calm the soul and connect with spirit.  They understand the value and necessity of silencing the body and mind for mental health.  The importance of balance is well understood and actively practiced.  

Silence is music to the soul.   Our culture, especially this time of year, bombards us with audio and visual stimuli and the stress of over scheduled agendas.  Too much physical and mental activity drowns out our still small voice of intuition, disconnecting us from Spirit.  Take a few minutes every day to just BE. In the sounds of silence you will feel the calming stillness of inner peace.  

Silence...


quietly sings

breathes peace

frees thought

brings release



Silence...


connects one

to the source

allows unity

guides course


Silence...


relaxes mind

clears chatter

relieves worry

so fears shatter


Silence...


charges soul

renews self

taps knowledge

of innate wealth

(From Awakening Perception, 2006)

Exercise:

Sit or lay still, relaxing your body.  Breath deeply and slowly.  Concentrate on your breath as it fills your body with oxygenating life force.  Feel the stress leaving your body as you exhale.  You can do this simple stress relieving exercise any time you feel overwhelmed, or just want to reconnect with Spirit.  Even just a few minutes will help regain emotional and spiritual balance.  Start practicing this simple meditation every day and you will begin to embrace silence as your sanctuary.




Friday, December 16, 2011

How Compassionate Are You?


Do you have compassion? Compassion is when we open our hearts to empathize and extend love to others. It may be easy to have compassion on those who you see as suffering from life events or forces outside of themselves, but can you offer compassion for those who are victims of their own poor choices. Can you have compassion for the homeless crack addict as well as the baby born with health issues? Can you come to a place of compassion for those who are stuck in unawareness, suffering in a living hell of their own doing? If you can have compassion on all who suffer, regardless of the cause of suffering, then this is unconditional compassion.

Unconditional compassion is non judgmental. It comes from a fully open heart. The more open your heart is, the more love you will be able to give and the more love you will be able to feel. A heart with conditional compassion is limited in its ability to fully feel love. The heart becomes blocked. The blockages in a heart are a result of the ego mind pushing for separation from others and spirit. The ego has to justify its existence through thoughts of self righteousness and a “I'm better than you” attitude. These type of trains of thought lead to justification of conditional compassion, which in turn limits our expression of love.

Practice feeling compassion towards those you normally judge as “losers”. The reality is they are suffering because they have lost themselves. Thoughts of judgment only serve to irritate us and reinforce feelings of being better than others. Praying for those who suffer will not only help them, it will enhance your own feelings of serenity and begin to clear away any blockages in your heart. An open heart is able to freely express love to others and feel the immense joy of receiving love.

Lesson:

Practicing unconditional compassion opens your heart, which enables you to fully express and feel love.

Exercise:

Become aware of any instances where you are reluctant to feel compassion for someone who is suffering, regardless of the cause of the suffering. When you find yourself resisting real compassion, say a prayer for them. Pray that their suffering will soon be over. Pray for your heart to open wider and to have compassion on all beings.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Scheduling Life Outside Your Head



Let’s discuss the future. The future is not Now, yet on a practical level it deserves some consideration in the Now. It’s not necessary to dwell on tomorrow too much, but you do need to have some sort of clue as to what you are doing today, next week, and next year.

Planning for the future, scheduling small tasks, appointments, and goals is an important part of being a functional adult. Especially in today’s society, it has become necessary to organized and prioritize life at least to some extent. There’s nothing wrong with planning. Planning has its purpose.

Thinking about the future is part of being a human being. The problem for unhappy people is too much thinking about the future in negative ways. When you worry about what may happen later today, tomorrow, and next year you are focusing on all the “bad” things that may possibly occur. Most of the time these scenarios never play out. By worrying, unhappy people occupy their minds with negative thoughts which creates anxiety. They worry about every little thing, making themselves a nervous wreck.

Worrying about the future is just as unproductive as dwelling on the past. There’s nothing you can do about the past, it was as it was. In the same way, the future will unfold as it will, with or without your worrying.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan and be prepared for life. Be proactive, do what you can to anticipate life and drive yourself toward your dreams. But, let go of those thoughts that needlessly focus on undesired outcomes. When you worry, you are preoccupying your mind with thoughts that generate anxiety, which results in stress. If you find yourself worrying, gently bring yourself into the present. Evaluate the concern you were thinking about and decide if there is something that you can do to prevent the undesired outcome. If you can be proactive,do it! And then let the situation go. Don’t allow the worrying thoughts to take over your mind and hijack your emotions.

Since we live in a busy world, there is usually numerous activities that need to be scheduled in the near future. Set aside time to prioritize and schedule your life. It probably won’t take more than 15 minutes of your day. You can use this time to do all the thinking and planning for the day. Once this is accomplished it will be easier to push the worrying aside.

Many people find it helpful to address their agenda for the following day before they go to bed. If you have a clear picture of what your schedule will be tomorrow, you will sleep better. There will be no reason to lie awake worrying or even just thinking about all the tasks that need to get done. Do not attempt to keep your entire life scheduled in your head. Use a calender, appointment book, or a PDA. Once you write it down you will be able to let the thoughts go. There will be no reason to think about it any more. The important tasks will be scheduled and you will think about them when the time comes.


Lesson:

Too much time spent on thinking about the future will result in needless worrying. Schedule your life outside of your head.

Exercise:

It’s time to stop worrying and over thinking about everything you need to do. This week start using an appointment book or other form of agenda. Take a few minutes before bed to look over the next day so you know what the plans are when you wake up. Then have a restful night.

If you catch yourself worrying, gently bring yourself back to the present moment. Take a deep breath. Evaluate the worry. Is it something you can take action to prevent? If so, then do it. If not, then it's time to let the thoughts flow through and out of your mind. Keep your attention on the Now. Enjoy your time without worry.



Thursday, December 8, 2011

Be With Nature



As I lay in the hammock in my backyard, a big yellow butterfly passes by, capturing my attention. I am immediately transported to a world of floral delight, fluttering from flower to flower. I feel the wind blow and begin losing myself in the movement of the leaves mixed with shadows in the tree above me. After a few minutes I gaze through an opening in the tree canopy and concentrate on the passing clouds, each animated shape becoming alive before it dissolves into the blue background. A mocking bird calls me back to Earth and then the melodic sound of the waterfall entrances me with its gentle rumble.

Take time to be with nature, time to be one with nature. The above backyard meditation is easy to do. Just sit quietly and observe your surroundings without commentary. Use your senses and explore the wonders of the natural world.

The ocean is my sanctuary,
Where I return like rivers and rain,
Reminding me of the greater whole,
from whence my soul once came.


No matter how far mankind has tried to distance himself from nature, the fact remains that humans are a part of nature. We live in a time where people have learned to spend most of their day disconnected from Mother nature. In the modern world, we spend time in a variety of boxes that separate us from our natural surroundings. There is the house where you live, perhaps spending half your day or more inside this domestic box. There may be the building where you work, and some of you even have a little office or a cubicle box. There are the mobile boxes such as cars, buses, and trains. We spend our time moving from one box to another, keeping ourselves as far away from nature as our money can buy.

Watching nature is viewed from television sets and computers. The art of sitting outside, relaxing, and just being with nature is becoming uncommon. The electronic age has taken over our minds, luring us to spend countless hours watching TV, connected to the Internet, and glued to our cell phones waiting for the next text message or tweet. Our minds are being hooked by audio visual electronic stimuli to the point where we have tuned out what we feel with our body and the smell and taste of our food because we aren't paying attention. We are forgetting the purpose of having a physical body is so that we can experience the world through our senses.

Not all of you are caught up in your boxes, but most unhappy people have this in common. If you are one of those people, get out of your box! By getting fresh air and sunshine you will give yourself a boost of happiness. Take a short walk, read outside, go for a hike, go fishing, camping, biking, or just sit quietly outside taking in the sights and sounds. You will begin to reconnect with the natural world. You'll begin to notice your habitat and surroundings. You'll become aware of and even stop to watch birds and butterflies. The more you can incorporate being outside in nature, the bigger the emotional reward will be.

Besides the relaxing benefits of reconnecting with nature, the human body benefits from sunlight itself. The amount of sunlight we receive affects our levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D is absorbed through exposure to sunlight. Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D may cause some people to feel symptoms of depression. So sunshine can actually brighten your day emotionally! Take a few minutes every day to bask in the sunlight and renew your spirit

When we take time to connect with nature we recharge our spirits and relax our minds. Being outside encourages us to use our senses as they were meant to be used: experiencing our surroundings. We give ourselves the opportunity to feel the sunlight, rain, and wind. We can experience the sweet sound of bird songs and be a witness the miracle of flight. We can dig our toes in the sand at the beach, or smell the freshness of damp grass on a summer morning. Being with nature allows us to be present, which reduces stress and rejuvenates the soul. Increase your awareness of your surroundings and you may be surprised how much it enhances your life.


Lesson #26:

Being with nature encourages presence, which reduces stress and rejuvenates the soul.

Exercise:

Spend some time everyday outside. Incorporate outdoor activities as much as possible. Practice being with nature. Learn to hear the sounds, distinguish the scents, and appreciate the sights of the the natural world. If you find thoughts of the past or the future coming to mind, refocus on your surroundings. This exercise helps train your ability to focus and to be present while rejuvenating yourself at the same time.

Simple outdoor meditations:

  • Sit quietly, close your eyes, and listen to as many distinct sounds you can sense.
  • Watch the movement and pay attention to the shadows of the leaves in a tree.
  • Close your eyes and see how many distinct scents you can sense.
  • Sky watch. Gaze at the clouds or the stars.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Awaken Your Inner Child



When we were children we were free. We lived in the moment, focusing on just being a child. If you are in my generation or older, then you probably were never bored. This seems to be a new phenomenon among our youth in the last twenty years or so. No, when I was young I was never bored. I played outside, with or without toys, with or without friends. Whatever I was doing was all that mattered at the time.

As we get older we lose that feeling of freedom to be only in the moment. We become slaves to our wondering mind, often thinking about the past or the future, and not really living in the moment. We become absent in our own lives. The body breathes, walks, performs actions, but the mind is somewhere else. When we consciously bring our attention to the present moment, we become like little children again. We enjoy our life with more vigor. We begin to be present in our own life.

When you are free like a child you naturally express your innate creativity and wonder. Children use their imaginations, opening their world to endless possibilities. They are naturally inquisitive, creative, playful, and willing to explore their world. It's time to live like a child again. When you become present you will pay more attention to your surroundings. You will notice the flowers as you walk into the bank, you will notice the stars at night and maybe take time to watch the sunset. You will have more time to pursue creative activities and more time to play. How can you have more time? Remember how long summer vacations used to seem when you were young? The more present you are the slower time seems to flow. When you aren't stuck inside your head and are actually present, time seems to expand.

Practice being present and you will begin to awaken the little child inside of you. Everything will become more fun. Your inner child will want to play because children love to play. They enjoy being outside in nature, looking at clouds, even playing in the rain! Your inner child might want to try new things, play games, redecorate a room, or make the food on the dinner plate look pretty. Be present and you will feel an urge to express new wonder, playfulness, and creativity.

Lesson :
Reconnecting with your inner child makes life more fun and expands time.

Exercise:

Practice bringing child like awareness into something that you normally do without awareness. It could be as simple as taking a walk.. If you normally are caught up in thoughts while walking, switch your awareness to your surroundings. Take a new route. Make a game out of it. How many animals can you see along the way? How many distinct sounds are around you? Does one street smell different than another street? If you were blind folded would you be able to know which street you were on?

Or maybe awaken your inner child while making dinner. Instead of being caught up in thoughts about the past or future, pay attention to what you are doing. Make a new recipe, or use your creativity in presentation and table setting design. Practice feeling the textures of the different foods as you prepare them. Take a moment to smell them. Be present and the experience will be totally different than mindlessly making dinner while listening to TV.

Practice reconnecting with your inner child and life will be fuller and more fun.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Beware of the Green Eyed Monster




Jealous trains of thought lead directly to discontent, hatred, and insecurity.  When we allow ourselves to indulge in these type of thoughts we are weakening our sense of self worth.  There will always be someone better off than you are in good fortune, financial status, physical appearance, intelligence, or some other trait that you wish you had.  This recognition of the fact that people are different, that everyone has their own set of strong points will cause jealousy or envy if you don't balance the recognition that everyone also has their challenges, weaknesses, and personal demons too.  The next time you find yourself wishing you were someone else, or could experience their most desirable trait, remind yourself that no one is perfect.  The grass isn't greener in their life, unless you are overlooking their weeds.  

A healthier way to think about the traits we desire in others is to make a point to work on those traits ourselves, to let them be an inspiration for personal growth.  Let your envy turn into admiration.  

Be happy, my Friends,
Laura barrette Shannon

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happiness Can Be as Simple as Cooking Chili



"I CAN'T STOP thinking about _____and it's upsetting me." We have all been there at one time. It may be a past pain or a future worry that is disturbing your peace of mind. You may have tried to be present to keep the thought at bay, but it just keeps coming back. Here are a few hyper-focus techniques that will effectively block those haunting thoughts:

Create: When you focus on a new garden project, cooking a new recipe, or redecorating a room you are paying attention to the process of creation. This usually will keep your attention enough to quell negative trains of thought. My favorites: cooking chili, sand castles, finger painting.

Play games: Playing games will focus your attention enough to stop all other thoughts from taking over your mind. If you are alone, try puzzles, word games, or Sudoku. Scrabble is my favorite. Playing board games has the added value of nurturing relationships. (I highly recommend this to all families.) Playing sports has the added benefit of exercise. Even watching sports can sometimes be enough to grab your attention and keep your focus outside of your head. 

Music: Singing happy songs will hyper-focus your mind on breathing, tone, rhythm, etc. Karaoke requires even more attention by having to read at the same time. This will effectively keep your mind from wandering onto negative trains of thought. You also get the bonus of deep breathing! Playing a musical instrument also requires your full attention. These activities are like musical meditation!

Service: When we are helping others we are focused away from our own problems. Volunteer in your community or church. When you are of service, you are not only being a productive member of your community, you will feel better about yourself. 

Dance: Take a class, or make up the moves as you go. Any kind of dancing will do the trick! Make dancing a regular part of your life.

Of course, keep practicing breathing and being present as much as possible, but sometimes these techniques may be just what you need to break the negative train of thought and force you into the Now.

Lesson:
Being hyper-focused on an activity can effectively stop negative trains of thought from circling in your mind.

Exercise:
Become aware if you caught up in unhappy thoughts that keep circling in your mind. When you find that a few deep breaths are not enough to jump off the train of thought then use a hyper-focus technique to keep those disturbing thoughts at bay.   You will discover which techniques work best for you.  Have fun while clearing your mind of unwanted thoughts.  :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Little Fears Will Destroy You


"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." ~Master Yoda~

Be aware of your fears, face them with courage, for it is not that which you are afraid of that will destroy you, it is the fear itself that has that power. It isn't always the big fears that destroy our peace of mind, it is usually the little fears, called "worries" that bring us suffering.

What are you worried about? Being in the mindset of "what could go wrong" can work to your advantage if you allow it to push you to be prepared with a plan "B", or to take proactive steps to insure undesired outcomes are averted. In contrast, excessive worrying about things you have no control over will disturb your peace of mind.
Learn to distinguish between the two types of worries If you can take action to prevent an undesirable outcome, then be proactive or plan as you deem necessary. Then let the thoughts go, by reminding yourself that you have done what you can do and are prepared for whatever the future unfolds. If you have no control over what you may imagine happening, then there is no need to waste your mental energy upsetting yourself. Use whatever methods you find work for you to jump off of the worry train of thought. Being aware when you are caught up in worrying is one step closer to stopping it.

Lesson:

Worrying is a waste of mental energy and destroys peace of mind.

Exercise:

Begin to be aware of when your mind wanders onto worries. When you are worrying take appropriate action if possible to aleviate the worry. If the situation you are worried about is out of your control then jump off the worry train of thought. Take a slow deep breath and refocus your mind on being present or more uplifting trains of thought. The more you practice not worrying the less apt you will be to focus on things out of your control. All thoughts feed on attention. Don't feed worries and they go away.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Everyone Has Their Own Garden (Weeding 101)


So far we’ve learned that life is like a flower garden, and we are the one’s who plant the seeds.  We either unconsciously let the garden get overrun with weeds of dissatisfaction or we can consciously take control of our garden, planting beautiful flowers of happiness.  We’ve practiced changing the way we respond to life and gained awareness of how our thoughts and attention can be used as a tool for creating a life of joy and peace.

The next step involves exploring the concept that everyone has their own separate flower garden.  Each garden is as personal as the person who tends it.  Not everyone’s garden will be a floral work of art.  As a matter of fact, most people’s gardens are filled with weeds of unhappiness, choking the life out of a few happy moments in their life..

One of the most challenging aspects of owning a garden is keeping out the weeds.  When people who have neglected their garden interact with others, they spread their weeds.  This is not intentional.  This is never personal.  They are not trying to ruin your happy state of being.  They aren’t even aware that they have a garden, or that they should pay attention to it.  They believe that life is filled with unhappy events, that some days are good and some days are bad, and that they have no control over any of it.  They have learned to focus on the unhappy events and to share them repeatedly throughout the day.    
You can’t change people. Their weeds have been building up over a lifetime and actually the only one who is capable of weeding is the one who owns the garden.  Even though you can’t change people you can change how you respond to them.  When someone is taking their frustrations out on you, Instead of re-acting, being upset yourself, you can choose to act with awareness.  Your response may be to just ignore the comment, it might be to respond in a positive way, or it might be just telling them you don’t want to hear about it.  Take a moment to have compassion on them, because they are filled with unhappiness in that moment.  See them for what they are;  unhappy people just letting off steam.  It’s never personal.
When people say negative things to you, you can make sure they don’t take root in your garden.  To do this you have to realize that what people say and do are a result of their own state mind at the time.  It actually doesn’t have anything to do with you.  It’s never personal.  When people complain about life  they are just expressing their unhappy thoughts that have built up. The unhappy thoughts germinate into unhappy moods. All the negative thoughts create negative energy that  needs to be discharged.    If we realize that what they are saying isn’t personal, it is just a result of a garden filled with unhappy weeds, then you will see that what they say has nothing to do with you.  It is no more personal than if your neighbor's dandelion seeds spread onto your lawn at home.

It is very important not to let those weeds germinate in your garden. You won’t be able to keep the weeds from spreading to your garden if you allow them to take seed.  The first step is to be aware when the weeds are blowing your way.  Once you notice them, you will be able to change the flow of the wind so that they just fly past your garden.

So what are these weeds that people blow our way every day?  It’s all the negative things people say to you.  It’s listening to their complaints. It’s when your spouse snaps at you because he can’t find his keys.  It’s your boss yelling at you because she’s in a bad mood.  It’s the guy who just cut you off in traffic and then beeped at you like it was your fault.  It’s your Mom when she comes home in a bad mood and starts in on you because your homework isn’t done.  It’s all the negatively charged emotions that are verbalized at you all day.

Lesson:
Everyone has their own garden, some are full of the weeds of stress and unhappiness.  Don’t let other people’s weeds take root in your garden!

Exercise:

This week bring your attention to your interactions with people.  If they try to spread their unhappiness with you, respond with awareness instead of re-act. Take a breathe, and bring your full attention on remaining calm. When you see the weeds blowing your way, see them for what they are.  Remind yourself that it isn’t personal.  They are just expressing their unhappiness.  Keep your focus on having compassion for them, because they are suffering from their own bad mood.  Let those weeds fly right by your beautiful flower garden, and go about your day as if it never happened.
If you find yourself becoming upset, and repeating the negative interaction over and over in your mind, then the weed has taken root.  It’s not too late.  When you notice that your mind is dwelling on negative thoughts, the sooner you stop it the easier it will be to uproot.  Gently bring your attention back to the present moment. Take a deep breath and pay attention to where you are now, what you are doing now. Bring your full attention to whatever you are doing in the moment. Each time the negative train of thought comes to mind, don't pay attention to it. Let it flow right through. Do not jump on any train of thought that will bring you to an unhappy destination. The more you practice this, the easier it will be to let the thoughts flow with out getting your attention hooked. Again, don't judge your efforts. It took a lifetime to build the habit of jumping on every train of thought without question. It will take some time to break the habit. Every tiny bit of awareness that you bring to this endeavor will pay off.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Choose to Be


 When we blame other people for our problems and personal issues we become a puppet of life. To be completely free and at peace with yourself and the world, you have to stop pointing the finger away from yourself for being who you are, and the way you act.
 Unhappy people tend to blame their parents, boss, past traumas, ex-spouse, or even God for their problems, preferring to play the victim with "Woe is me" stories, rather than look at their own actions and life choices.  They say things like, “I'm this way because of _____.” They place the responsibility of why they are the way they are on other people and situations instead of taking the responsibility themselves.
Take charge of life by accepting that who and what you are today is a direct result of all of the thoughts and actions that you have made in the past, not because of someone else, or something outside of yourself. Everyone has the power to choose to be any way they wish to be. Don't be a victim of life! Once one accepts responsibility for their own life, true change occurs.
  

"Choose to Be" 
I am now whom I choose to be,
Consciously guiding my destiny.
I once blamed fate for losing my way,
But, actions past formed me today.
I was asleep- slumbering life;
Dreaming daily; Seeding strife.
Now, I pick, plan persist,
Intending to be whom I insist.
Dueling demons; Fighting fear,
Actions my weapons; Thoughts my seer.
I will endure until the end,
Minding each moment that I spend,
Knowing that I'm forever free,
Being now whom I choose to be.
 
(from Awakening Perception, by Laura Barrette Shannon)

When I realized that I alone was responsible for how I interact with others and respond to life events, it gave me the power to make different choices.  I was no longer a victim of life.  I began to choose to look at myself and how I interacted in the world.  I discovered my habits based in fear were not working to create the life I desired.  I learned to face my fears and to focus on love, joy, and life's beauty.  In doing so, I chose to be a happy free spirit.  Reclaim your personal power by taking full responsibility for who you are and how you interact with the world. Take responsibility for your life. Cut those puppet strings!

Lesson:
We are responsible for our interactions with people, and our responses to situations in life.

Exercise:

Do you blame others or past situations for your unhappiness? When you blame others it takes the responsibility and control of your life away from you. Take your life back. You have full control over who you are and how you choose to be now and in the future. Stop being a victim and take responsibility for yourself. Take control of the wheel and start steering your life in the direction you choose.

Repeat these affirmations:

“I am fully responsible for how I interact with others.”

“I am fully responsible for my responses to life situations.”

“I am fully responsible for who I choose to be.”


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Complaints Are Seeds of Misery



Life is a flower garden

your thoughts are the seeds.
You'll reap what you sow,
plant flowers not weeds.
Accept what is- 
allow life to flow!
Speak only delight
Where ever you go!
Speak no evil. When we speak ill, gossip, and pass judgment on others we only hurt ourselves. It demonstrates a lack of compassion, intolerance, and pettiness which diminishes our character.
"Be impeccable with your word."~ don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

When we cultivate acceptance, it will begin to strangle the weeds of discontent. When we can begin to accept that certain things in life are beyond our control, then we can understand the uselessness of complaining about them.   When we complain, we are planting seeds of misery in our minds, and spreading those seeds to other people.  Complaining will amplify your fixation on a negative circumstance.  If you can change what it is you are wishing were different, then have the courage to do it.  If you choose not to, then stop complaining.  If it's something beyond your control, then the complaining serves only one purpose- to aggravate yourself and others around you.  

Not only is complaining a waste of time and energy, it’s detrimental to peace of mind.  Whenever you complain, you are planting weeds instead of seeds.  You are reinforcing negative thinking with every complaint you utter.  Begin to notice how you feel irritated when you complain about things.  This irritation is the root cause of stress in your life. Stress is caused when the mind refuses to accept what is.  When we are constantly dwelling on things that are out of our control, we plant seeds of discontent and anger.   The events in our life do not create our stress, our thoughts about these events are the seeds of discontent.

Mom was right, "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all."
Become aware of how your words affect your emotions and those who hear them. It's not just gossip that hurts, it's any complaint or negative comments about life in general. Become aware of the power of your words. Words can hurt or words can heal.

Lesson:

Complaining is a seed of discontent.

Exercise:

Begin to be aware of what you say.  Your words are a mirror of your mind.  See if you can notice how much you complain, and how others will complain about the littlest things.  Become aware of what type of conversations you have with people.  Are most of your conversations positive and uplifting or are they mostly complaining about people or life in general?  Begin to notice how you feel when you complain about things. How do you feel when others are complaining? All that is required is to become aware of how complaining is contributing to your level of stress. This is an awareness exercise. Raising your awareness is the first step to complaining less. Awareness is the key to getting your emotions under control. Don't judge yourself. Be grateful that you are becoming aware of how stress originates and that you have the power to begin living peacefully. The next few chapters will teach you how to begin focusing on the positive aspects of life.

Acceptance Is a Seed of Happiness


God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference. 

One of the most essential seeds to plant in any garden of happiness is acceptance.  When we cultivate acceptance, it will begin to strangle the weeds of discontent.  You’ve probably heard the saying, “It is what it is.”  When we can begin to accept that certain things in life are beyond our control, then we can understand the uselessness of complaining about them.  Living with acceptance doesn’t mean that you condone the imperfections of this world, it means that you have chosen to see beyond them in order to allow yourself to enjoy life. 
Acceptance is a fundamental key to happiness. When we admit that sometimes life involves events that we can't control, we plant the seed of acceptance. Realize that accepting something doesn't necessarily mean that you like what happened, it is admitting that "it is what it is" and releasing the thoughts of wishing it had been different. You can never change the past, but you can move forward without fighting it. The first step is to be willing to let it go.

When you allow yourself to get caught up in conversations that are based in negativity, you are filling your mind with seeds of misery. Be aware of focusing too much on what's wrong with the world. When you focus on obstacles and problems you fail to see solutions. Happy people look beyond life's imperfections, not talk about them all day.
Now that you’ve awakened your ability to be present at will and know that you can be happy Now,  your ready to begin planting new seeds of joy.  In lesson previous lessons, you learned that you can control your attention.  You successfully practiced focusing your attention and actively engaging the present moment.  This may seem like a small accomplishment and you are probably wondering how being present will help to transform your life.  It’s simple: The more you practice being present and being aware of your thoughts, the easier it will be to focus your attention.

When you learn to focus your attention at will you’ll be able to steer your trains of thought toward more desirable emotions.  Thus, by directing your attention, you have unlocked the door to happiness.  Happy people have learned to do this, even if they don’t know what they are doing.  Happy people focus on their flower garden;  they pay attention to and nurture the seeds of happiness and do not allow weeds into their garden.

Lesson:
Acceptance is an essential seed of happiness.

Exercise:

Is there something you feel you can not accept? Is it something that you can change? If it is beyond your scope of influence, then it is something that you either must come to accept, or continue letting the thoughts of unacceptance cause you misery.
Become aware of any issues you may have with acceptance. When you find something that is troubling you that you have no control over, plant new seeds of acceptance by repeating:

 “I may not like _______, but since there is nothing I can do about it I choose to let these thoughts go.” 

 The more awareness you bring to this issue, the quicker you will be able to stop riding these disturbing trains of thought. Eventually they will come less and less. Be gentle with yourself as you learn to accept that life won't always be what you think it should be.

Be Happy, my Friends-
Laura barrette Shannon

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Happy Monk

A young man in search of happiness heard of a wise old monk that was enjoying a happy life. So he went to see the happy Monk, who he found in the garden. He approached him as the Monk was weeding and asked, "Please,Brother, would you show me how to enjoy life?" The Monk stood up, "I am busy weeding the garden." Then knelt back down and began weeding again. The young man left and came back the next day as the Monk was cooking his dinner. Again, he inquired, "Brother, please, can you tell me how to enjoy life?". The Monk took a deep breath as he inhaled the aroma of the stew he was stirring and replied, "I am busy cooking dinner."
The man left and came back for the third day, asking the Monk one more time, "Please, Brother, share with me your wisdom of how you are so happy and enjoy life." The Monk shrugged his shoulders and sighed, "I keep telling you but you aren\'t listening."

original Zen story by Laura Barrette Shannon

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why Presence Is the Key to Happiness

In this world of chaotic change,
I Am at peace.
Breath of tranquility
Calms my restless mind.
Just being Present
Blocks emotional turmoil,
Reminding me
What is Real.

When you are enjoying your time, you are PRESENT; You\'re focusing on whatever you are doing, without thinking about the past or future. See if you can bring this awareness into your daily activities. The more you practice controlling your attention, the easier it becomes, and the more you focus this attention outside of your head, the more you will find joy in the simplest things. Be mindful- PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR LIFE AS IT HAPPENS.
The act of being present is an awareness of your surroundings in a new and exciting way. You will appreciate nature, perhaps feeling the sun on your face, hearing the sweet melodies of the birds, or noticing other stimuli that would normally be drowned out by your thoughts. You will enjoy your meals with new vitality, savoring each bite, allowing the flavors to fully be tasted. You will become more conscious of your own body, feeling the joy of each breath as it enters and exits your lungs. You will come to realize that the act of being present will draw your mind away from thoughts of the past, and worries of the future. All that will matter is NOW, because you will be actively engaging your senses in the present moment.

Being present as much as possible will enliven your life. When you are fully present, your awareness is in a different state of attention. In this state of attention, you are aware of your present moment of activity, and you are also aware of your thoughts. Many people are in a constant state of unawareness. They will go about their day, rarely being present, and barely aware of their surroundings and what they are thinking. More often than not, they don’t understand why their emotions are out of control.

Exercise:
Practice being present.

Choose at least one activity that you normally do everyday. It can be anything at all, eating, showering, drinking coffee, exercising, etc. Whenever you do this activity be present as much as possible. Start by bringing your attention to your body and senses. What do you feel physically? What do you see, smell, and hear? At the same time be aware of your thoughts. It’s natural to have thoughts. The goal isn’t to eliminate them, but to let them pass by like trains in a train station.
Walking: Be aware of the physical sensations; Feel your muscles contract as you walk. Feel the heat or cold on your skin. Feel the textures of your clothing. Be aware of any sounds; listen to the sound of your own breath as it flows in and out.

Eating: Take time to enjoy the taste and aroma of your food. Savor each bite as if you never tasted it before. Pay attention to the texture, the way your tongue moves as you chew.

Really focus on staying present. When you find your mind drifting to other thoughts, gently pull yourself back into the moment. This exercise will demonstrate just how much you are caught up in your thoughts versus being present.
Be where you are.
Do what you are doing.
Experience life as it happens.
When we live inside our heads, thinking about being somewhere else, doing something else, or thinking about the past or the future, we are missing out on living. You will enjoy life more if you actually live it as it unfolds.

Don’t judge your efforts. Even if you can only be present for 5 seconds at a time you have successfully begun your journey towards being happy now.