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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.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Are You Lonely?

(image zoomcatch.com)

ARE YOU LONELY? You can be in a crowded room or in multiple close relationships and still feel lonely. Don't confuse being alone with being lonely. It is when we have learned to be our own best friend that we banish thoughts of loneliness. Recognize loneliness as a reminder that we have to reclaim our innate wholeness, not to look for completion in another. No one can complete you, or take away your feelings of loneliness. The void you may feel in your heart is because you haven't embraced your own perfection. When you embrace all that you are, loving yourself with all of your heart, it is an act of personal healing and a step toward feeling whole.
Begin to take steps to reclaim yourself. It takes time and effort, as it did to lose yourself in the first place. It starts with self awareness, getting to really know who you are and what might be being suppressed within yourself. Everyone's journey of self awareness is as individual as they are. For me, daily affirmations helped remind me of my innate self worth. Also, being true to myself and following my dreams helped. Redrawing boundaries with others or eliminating some unhealthy relationships was also a part of it. Basically, it is embracing who you are, and gaining the feeling of self worth and self love. In reality, it is as easy or as challenging as you believe it to be. Set the intent to reclaim your wholeness, and then do the work to find yourself. Self awareness is the key.
 Reclaim your wholeness and never be lonely again!

~Laura Barrette Shannon
Be Happy, my Friends! :)