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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Happiness and Health: The Mindset Is the Same

It started with a routine visit to the doctor. On this visit, I was to receive the results from blood tests I had a few days prior. The results were less than optimal. My cholesterol and triglycerides were very high. The doctor told me that if I didn\'t lose weight and get my cholesterol and triglycerides under control, I was a prime candidate for a heart attack. She said, "You can do this. It\'s just a matter of getting into a healthy mindset of diet and exercise." This statement resonated with me. Mindsets and watching my thoughts were not new to me. I have been steering my mind away from negative thoughts for years. Perhaps if I treated unhealthy thoughts the same way, I could stick to a healthy lifestyle. So the journey began.
That was twelve weeks ago. I discovered quite a few interesting things so far. Yes, changing one\'s diet is challenging, but it is much easier with cognitive awareness. I became aware of when I was thinking about eating something unhealthy. I immediately changed my thoughts to something else. It works. After all, you don\'t just mindlessly get up, open the fridge, cut a slice of cheese cake and eat it. Everything you do begins with a thought. It starts, "cheesecake...mmm...". Then, from the first thought seed, it will build into more thoughts of the same nature, until, you are eating that cheesecake, unless you bring awareness to the situation. Awareness of your unhealthy thoughts is the first step to health. It really is the same as happiness- Awareness of negative trains of thought gives you an opportunity to switch your attention onto something more positive. It\'s the same with unhealthy thoughts. When you become aware of them, you can redirect your mind. The less I indulged in those unhealthy thoughts, the easier it became to make healthier food choices. I have lost 30 lbs so far. I choose healthy whole foods over processed food. This is the beginning of a whole new journey of health for me. Be happy and healthy, my friends!
Laura Barrette Shannon

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How Well Do You Know Yourself?


“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Know thyself.” ~ Socrates

Self-awareness is the cornerstone to transformation. If you do not understand yourself, how can you change?
One easy way to increase your self-awareness is to put yourself into an observational mode by watching how you usually react to people and situations. Bring your awareness into an observational mode by paying attention to your patterns of being and questioning your thoughts and behavior. You can then assess your behavior. Distinguish if the way you are acting is in alignment with who you desire to be. Do certain people seem to upset you or cause you to feel stressed? Discover what it is that you are thinking around them. Watch yourself and you will find out what situations push you into automatic reactions. Once you can recognize these situations, the mere fact of recognizing them brings a state of higher awareness. Then you will have the power to be however you choose to be instead of driving on impulse.
You may be surprised to find that when you come from a place of reaction, you are not in alignment with how you would choose to respond if you had given the situation a moment of thought. Once you have attained this watcher awareness, you will have the power to respond to life instead of operating with your automatic default reactions. Remember your A, B, Cs of responding to life: Awareness, Breathe, Choose. Then you can choose love over fear, peace over conflict, and happiness over despair.
Lesson :

Watching how you interact in the world raises your self-awareness.
Exercise:

Practice observing yourself. Learn to shift your awareness as necessary. When you are watching yourself, you are in a state of higher awareness. In this mode of consciousness, you will be open to new types of behavior as well as increasing self-awareness.

SELF AWARENESS EXERCISE: Become aware of what you say to people, how you say it, and why you say it.

*** Are you speaking just to fill the silence?
*** Do you try to steer the conversations back to you when someone is sharing something about themselves?
*** What emotion is projected with your words? (Kindness, sarcasm, curiosity, judgement, love, etc.)

*** Are you saying things that you think the other person wants you to say?

*** If you are sharing an opinion or a fact, are you projecting that you know better than them (being condescending).

The better you know yourself, and recognizing your patterns of communication, the more power you will have to practice shifting communications toward kindness, openness, and listening more than you speak. This will help eliminate drama and build better relationships.

Don’t judge your efforts. Any amount of attention you give to this practice will enhance your ability to move into higher awareness at will. Have fun with this exercise. You will learn things you never knew about yourself, I always do.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Learning to Respond to Life in a Positive Way


“You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.” ~ Buddha

Now that you have become aware of the relationship between complaining and stress, you are ready to learn how to stop complaining and learn to respond to life in a different way. Most complaints are merely reactions that we have learned and practiced over a lifetime. We were never taught how to watch our thoughts. We never knew that there was a different way of looking at life.

The difference between reacting and acting is bringing awareness to the situation. This allows you to use your free will to respond any way you choose. When you react to a situation, you are most likely repeating patterns of behavior without thought to whether your reactions are appropriate for this new situation. You are literally re-acting, or acting again, the way you have acted before. When you respond with action to a situation, you are consciously aware of what you are thinking, saying, and doing.

When a stressful situation arises, unhappy people will automatically react with negative thoughts, most of which are resisting the reality of what is. If you are unaware of your thoughts, you have no control over your reactions to life. By taking a moment to be present, you will gain awareness of your thoughts, which will give you an opportunity to choose your response instead of just reacting to the situation. You will act with awareness instead of reacting.

Let’s look at an example of the typical unhappy person reacting to a flat tire. The tire blows. Ms. Grimm starts cursing. “I can’t believe this! Now I’m going to be late! This is terrible!” After she hurriedly scrambles to find the number for roadside assistance, she calls with aggravation in her voice. She will spend the time waiting, repeating negative thoughts of nonacceptance, feeling like a victim, and possibly even calling other people to express her irritation, spreading the seeds of misery. Then she will most likely repeat the story of this event multiple times throughout the day, each time becoming upset and feeling stressed.

Now let’s see how Ms. Chipper handles the same situation: The tire blows. “Darn!” (Slow, deep breathe.) “Well, I guess I’ll call roadside assistance. There’s nothing else I can do about it.” Keeps breathing deeply and slowly as she calmly calls for assistance. Then starts to think, Boy, am I thankful that I didn’t have an accident when the tire blew! Thank God! I’ll call work and let them know I’m going to be late. And now I can call a few people that I’ve been meaning to call while I wait. She might repeat this story but will definitely tell it without negative residual emotions.

You may have had the good fortune to witness the difference between an unhappy person and a happy person in a situation. The unhappy people are always stressing themselves out and have a hard time coping when unexpected things happen. The happy people are the ones who are calm and flow with life. The flat-tire incident is a relatively big event compared to the many smaller things that pass our way in any given day. Most of the time, the events that stress people out are very small.

Let’s look at another example of unchecked thoughts, this time with something small happening. Mr. Grimm is getting ready for work. He isn’t thinking about what he is doing and spills coffee on his shirt. Cursing, he starts to rush around. As he is hurrying, he is thinking how clumsy he was for spilling the coffee and how he is going to be late. These thoughts agitate him even more. While he is driving to work he’s still thinking about being late and not really focusing on the road. Each red light he stops at aggravates him more and more, which starts him thinking about how much he hates traffic and driving. By the time Mr. Grimm gets to work, he’s in a bad mood and is grumpy to everyone he passes on the way to his desk. He has a stressful morning because everything seems to bother him. He starts to think about how much he hates his job. By afternoon, he is feeling stressed and depressed.

Sometimes a tiny event can spiral into a bad mood or even a bad day. Mr. Grimm didn’t let the emotions process quickly and in a healthy manner. So he feels irritated while trying to find another shirt, thinking about how he’s going to be late, driving faster to work, and getting more irritated at every stop light. By the time he reaches work, a small spill on his shirt has become the trigger for ruining his mood for the morning. He is unaware why he is in a bad mood. He just thinks he is having a bad day.

Now, let’s look at an example of catching your thoughts in the same situation. Mr. Chipper is getting ready for work. He isn’t thinking about what he’s doing and spills coffee on his shirt. “Oops!” (Momentary irritation. Takes a slow, deep breath) “Guess I missed my mouth! (Chuckles.) “I’ll go change my shirt.” (Feels no residual irritation about this event.) Then he starts to think, Darn, I’m going to be late now. Mr. Chipper, recognizing his reaction as a negative thought process, starts to watch his thoughts. He knows what can happen if he lets them run amok. Instead of getting upset, he thinks about having an opportunity to slow down a bit and focus on the present moment. He takes an extra three minutes to change his shirt and leaves for work. He is still focused on the moment and what he is thinking about, so as he drives to work he doesn’t rush but enjoys the twenty-minute commute, singing to the music on the radio. He focuses on driving and singing. He happily greets everyone as he enters work and has a great day.

You can see from these very simplistic examples how one thought can trigger other thoughts and create a spiral of emotion. If you can catch your negative thoughts and change them toward something different, or just release them and move on with your day, you will be taking a huge step toward improving your life. These practices take time and effort, but the more you watch your thoughts, the easier it is to see them and not let them take over your emotions.

When we react to every slight irritation all day long, the stress builds inside us. By resisting the flow of life, we condemn ourselves into a life of aggravation. It doesn’t have to be that way! You can learn to respond to life in a different way.

Here is where you can use presence. When an unexpected event pops into your day, take a deep breath and let it out slowly. This is exactly the amount of time it takes to let the momentary irritation pass through you and to become present. It’s okay to feel the irritation, but let it flow quickly and then let it go.

If you have enough presence, you will be able to stop your train of thought about whatever is bothering you. These few seconds will allow you to inhibit your emotional impulse and evaluate the situation. If it is something that you have no control over, then instead of complaining, (either in your thoughts or out loud) switch your perspective to one of acceptance. You might even remind yourself that it isn’t worth getting upset over the issue.

In his book Emotional Intelligence, psychologist Daniel Goleman formulates the skills necessary for emotional well-being. He writes,

“Emotional intelligence consists of five skills: knowing what you’re thinking as you’re thinking it; handling your feelings so that distracting emotions don’t interfere with your ability to concentrate and learn; motivating yourself, including maintaining optimism and hope; having empathy; and social skills.”

When you can develop enough awareness to know what you are thinking, and thereby respond to life in a positive way, instead of reacting you are on your way to being an emotionally balanced person. If you can make a habit of this, you’ll notice a remarkable change in your life. As a matter of fact, if this is the only lesson you ever apply from this book, then you will have the tools to eliminate stress.

When we complain about life, people, traffic, weather, or life in general, we’re not only planting weeds in our garden, we are spreading seeds of misery into someone else’s garden. Stop aggravating yourself and everyone around you with complaints!

Lesson:

You can respond to life in a positive way. (Stop complaining.)

Exercise:
This week, make an effort to focus your attention on being present and choosing to act with awareness instead of reacting to all the little things that happen in a day. Really make an effort to stop complaining out loud. The negative thoughts will still arise in your mind, but if you have enough awareness to stop those negative thoughts from being spoken, then you are making progress. Eventually, with practice it will become easier and easier to let those negative thoughts flow through your mind before they grab your attention and irritate you.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Do You Love Yourself?



If you don't love and respect yourself, you are setting yourself up for heart ache, being used, and thoughts of self judgement.  Self love is not selfish.  Self love is fundamental to psychological well being.  It is the foundation of a loving heart.  If you do not love yourself, you will have a skewed vision of love, often seeking to fill the void you feel with someone else.


Don't confuse the desire to share your time and love with another, with the need to complete yourself or feel whole. When people convince themselves that they are incomplete with out being with another person they are deluding themselves into thinking that somehow another person can make them feel whole. No one can make you feel happy or whole. These are feelings that can only come from within your own heart. 


Sure, a new love will provide feelings of elation and a temporary feeling of fulfillment, but as the newness wears off in the relationship, so will the feeling of completeness, unless you have learned to love yourself. The void you may feel in your heart is because you haven't embraced your own perfection. LOVE YOURSELF FIRST, and then you will be offering a complete person with a whole heart to the relationship.


It can be challenging to overcome a lifetime of self judgement.  Be gentle with yourself.  I use a positive affirmation every morning to remind myself that, "I AM healthy, happy and whole."  Whenever I feel self doubt, I repeat this phrase a few times.  It may sound like it won't make a difference, but I assure you that it will.  Loving yourself first is a fundamental step to being happy.  


 Namaste-


 Laura Barrette Shannon 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Stop the Insanity

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." ~Albert Einstein


"Do you repeat unhealthy patterns expecting the outcome to be different "this time"? This is common in relationships, but this insanity can be seen in many parts of life. Take a few minutes to reflect upon your life. Do you see any unhealthy patterns? Awareness is the first step to breaking the cycle. Once you become conscious of how you are stuck in an unhealthy cycle of repetition you can take action to break free.


If you are repeating unhealthy patterns, you will have to change yourself in order to break the pattern. You can't change others, but when we change the way we interact with people, reset boundaries, or choose to move in a different direction, we successfully break the cycle of insanity. Relationships are like a dance. If you change your moves, the other person will follow suit or decide not to dance with you at all. Either way, it works out in your best interest.


Be gentil with yourself. Awareness is the the first step. Don't beat yourself up because you have been in a cycle of unhealthy patterns. You are human and we all face these issues in one way or another. Keep in mind that you have the power to do something different if you choose to break the pattern, but only you will know how and when to address the issue. Enjoy the journey, it's not about the destination. You are always perfect no matter what. Sometimes, we create a different version of our perfection to suit our own needs and self expression.


Laura Barrette Shannon ♥
author of Be Happy Now: Simple Steps to Enjoying Life

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Is Time on Your Side?

Time. Is there ever enough time to work on spirituality? I was talking to a woman last night about finding time for spiritual practices. She said that she is devoted to a spiritual life, citing many instances where she has been able to be of service to others and focus on spiritual training, such as retreats, workshops, Sunday sermons, and community service projects. Then she explained that she wishes she had more time for these activities, but finds that work, cleaning the house, and raising her two boys takes up too much time.

Time is not on her side. She has a point of view where time is the enemy, eating away at opportunities for spiritual endeavors. The various parts of her life are set up on a schedule. There is a time for work, a time for play, a time for shopping, cooking, cleaning…etc. All these activities consume her time and leave little left for spiritual work. In her story of life, time is not on her side.

What if we believe a different story, and adopt the motto, “Time is on our side”? Is it possible to work, cook, clean, walk, talk on the phone, and run errands, and still focus on our spiritual growth? Yes, because time is on our side. There’s no need to reschedule daily activities. We can do our spiritual homework at the same time by taking steps to master our attention. By consciously observing thoughts, verbal exchanges, and moods we steadily work towards heightened awareness. A favorite exercise of mine is developing a working meditation while doing chores. For example, washing the dishes. As I’m washing my thoughts are scattered and have nothing to do with what I’m doing. By becoming aware of this I can consciously pull myself into the moment, where I can simply focus on washing dishes, thus freeing my mind of mental chaos. This type of hyper presence becomes a working meditation. Another spiritual exercise is being aware of the energy and intent behind the words we’re saying in conversations. Ask yourself, “Am I saying what I mean?” “Do I know the intent behind what I’m saying?” “Am I involved in gossip?” “Could I make an effort to be kinder, more tolerant, and less judgemental?” These are just a few of the many ways to bring spiritual training into our everyday lives. Have fun creating and practicing your own exercises. Since time is on your side, why not use it?

With practice, every activity can become a spiritual work through heightened awareness. I do admit that spiritual retreats, workshops, services, and books are often necessary catylists for renewing spiritual passion. They can definitely spark your level of devotion and aid in understanding basic concepts, but it is in daily practice, moment to moment, that will actually propel us on the path.

be free-
Laura Barrette Shannon

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Finding Your Value

A well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked. "Who would like this $20 bill?"

Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this $20 to one of you - but first, let me do this."

He proceeded to crumple the 20 dollar note up. He then asked. "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air.

"Well," he replied, "what if I do this?" He dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. "Now, who still wants it?"

Still the hands went into the air.

"My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.
Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless; but no matter what happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value.

Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still valuable. The worth of our lives comes, not in what we do or who we know, but by ...WHO WE ARE.

You are special - don\'t ever forget it."

When we devalue ourselves, just because we have made mistakes or fallen short of our personal goals, we set ourselves up for mental suffering with thoughts of not being good enough. You are worthy not for what you accomplish, but for your character and the innate spark of light in your soul. You may feel like your light is diminished, but always remember that it is still there, ready to be revealed in all of its brilliance. ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS TO ALIGN YOURSELF WITH the aspiration to be the best person you can be.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Zen and the Art of Pumping Gas

Learn to find opportunities to reconnect with the world around you by pulling your attention into the present moment. I was filling up my car with gas yesterday morning, which usually is not my favorite activity, and while I was pumping I pulled my attention into the NOW. First I closed my eyes and concentrated on all the sounds around me- a motorcycle zooming by (I listened to its distinctive rumble until it gently faded away), the sound of flip flops as someone walked by, the sounds of the wind...then my attention shifted to the feel of the wind on my body- blowing my hair, puffs of air hitting my legs and body, then I opened my eyes and saw a squirrel run across the street (I was saying to myself "Run, little squirrel, Run!)
Then the pump stopped, and my mini meditation was over. Now, I\'m looking forward to filling up next time.
Another great time for presence meditation is when you are waiting at a stop light or in a check out line. Become fully present by focusing on your senses: What do you see, hear, smell, feel on your body? Pay attention as long as possible. These few minutes will be rejuvenating for your mind and the time will pass without any sense of waiting.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Burning Away Your Pain

Most of us find ourselves caught up in emotional suffering from time to time.  If you feel like your in a funk, recovering from a personal loss, tragedy, or falling into a depression you can take action to alleviate the pain.  First, begin to find the small spark of joy and love within your heart.  Find what generates feelings of warmth and happiness.  Once you find your inner flame of joy, you can begin feeding the flame to make it grow stronger.  Feed the flame of inner joy with acts of compassion and service to your fellow man.  When you help others, it generates positive feelings of self worth and builds your capacity for compassion.  Another act of feeding the flame is to cultivate gratitude as much as possible.  When we focus on what we appreciate in life, we take the focus off of what we don't like.  As we begin paying more attention to the positive aspects of our lives, our heart begins to grow.  Compassion and gratitude will fill your soul with such joy, that your problems and emotional pain will take a back seat in your awareness.  As you pay less attention to your emotional pain, it will begin to fade.  Be warned:  the more attention you give to your problems and pain the stronger the negative emotional response will be.  Take control over your awareness and use it wisely.

Lesson: 

 Connect with the spark of joy 
and love within your heart.  
Then feed it with gratitude and compassion, 
allowing the flames to grow so strong
 that they burn away your pain.

Exercise:
Begin watching where you focus your awareness.  Do you focus on problems that are out of your control?  Do you often think about emotionally painful events from your past?  Do you look for what is wrong with the world or people around you, instead of what is good about them?  Retrain your awareness by tuning in to positive aspects of life.  Cultivate compassion through service and practice an attitude of gratitude and you will see amazing results in your moods.  Be kind to yourself as you progress in cultivating your awareness.  Any amount of effort will pay off with feelings of increased happiness.  

Laura Barrette Shannon
author of Be Happy Now book

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Reclaiming Self Esteem



HAVING self esteem stems from loving who you are. If you don't love yourself, your heart is not complete. Those without self love often search for someone else to fill the empty void within their heart. Because they are low in self esteem, they have lower standards of who they date and who they associate with as friends. Their lack of self worth drives them to be with people who support their lack of self respect, often getting involved with abusive individuals. If you are having trouble loving and respecting yourself, you must take action to be the kind of person who you will be happy to be.
Begin by writing down all the qualities that you admire in other people. Forget about the physical qualities, as they are not important in this exercise. Really search your soul to find what personality traits you would like to display to the world. Some qualities that raise self esteem are compassion, integrity, honesty, hard working, and responsible. Review your list, and then make an agreement with yourself that you will take action to be the kind of person you admire. Realize that the patterns of low self esteem have arisen because of you have given your personal power away by disrespecting who you are. You are worthy of your love and respect as much as anyone. Your unique qualities are what makes you special. Take total responsibility for how you interact with others, and how you respond to life situations. Begin to reclaim your personal power by taking control of how you respond to life. As you begin responding with more patience, integrity, and compassion you will begin to feel good about yourself. 
Remember, 

It does not matter who you were yesterday, 
only who you are from this moment forward. 

Laura Barrette Shannon
author of Be Happy Now book

Friday, June 1, 2012

Death: The Great Adviser


In the last three months I have lost two young friends to cancer.  One was 43, the other 39.  It wasn't the tragedy of how cancer can strike anyone at any age, or the immense personal loss of those who loved them that  stuck in my mind.  I came to understand the fleeting nature of human life a long time ago.  The thoughts that keep circling in my mind are the lessons that we who are are left can pull from these seemingly random acts of early demise.  So does death have lessons to teach us?  Can death be an adviser on life?  Can pondering our own death give us valuable insight into how to live?  The answers are all a big loud, "Yes!"

Here are the questions that will drive you to fully live your life, compel you to love more, forgive everything, and really be your authentic self.

Before you die, is there anyone you need to apologize to or to forgive?   If the answer is yes, then begin the process.  To apologize or make restitution you will have to connect with the other person.  To forgive, you only need yourself, since forgiveness is a one person act of releasing the resentment in your heart.  The other person has nothing to do with your attachment to this resentment.  It is time to heal these wounds and save the relationships worth saving.  Or, let it go.

Before you die, is there something you always desired to experience?  No matter how young you are, make a bucket list.  If you don't start early, you may never get a chance to do all the things you dream of doing before you die.  If you start now, at least you will have the opportunity to cross some things off that bucket list.  

Before you die, really take the time to get to know who you are.  You are unique, fascinating, and a child of God.  Discover your innate abilities.  Perhaps it is art, music, or being a great Mom.  It might be your ability to listen to people or you unwavering passion to follow your dreams.  Each of us is different.  Find out who you are and then let your life be an accurate expression of yourself.  When we are true to ourselves, we enjoy life much more.

One of the biggest lessons that we can gain from death is the realization that we are still alive.  Because we live, we still have choices.  Once we are dead, there are no more chances to change into the person we were meant to be, there are no more chances to love more, to pay more attention to our loved ones.  But, luckily, you are here right now, with a chance to really live your life by the choices you will make today, and each day on that you are privileged enough that you wake up in the morning.  Choose to live life with peace, love, and happiness while you still can. 


So, what can you learn from death?....How to live.

Laura Barrette Shannon
author of Be Happy Now book

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Do You Do This?

There once was a woman who had two sons. The first son was a farmer and the second was a brick maker. During the rainy season, she lamented and cried because the brick maker couldn’t make his bricks. During the dry season, she complained and worried that her son’s crops would dry up and burn. Every day she would be worried about one son or the other. 

One day a wise old monk came to town. The worried woman asked the wise monk how she could find peace and happiness when each day she was worried about one of her sons. The wise monk said, “On the days of rain, rejoice! For your son’s crops are being blessed with water to yield a plentiful harvest! On the days of sun, rejoice! For the heat of the sun is baking down on your son’s bricks, allowing him to be more productive in his brick-making business.” From that day forward, the woman was happy every day. (This is the retelling of an old Buddhist tale.)

Lesson 6:

What you focus on affects your level of happiness or misery. 

Exercise: 
Start to evaluate the nature of the things you talk and think about. See if you can notice when you are focusing on negative life situations or worries. When we pay too much attention to things that are upsetting, and usually out of our control, we are upsetting ourselves for no reason. This is an awareness exercise. You don’t need to change your habits of thinking at this time; just become aware that what you focus on affects your level of happiness or misery.  As time goes on, and your awareness grows, you will be able to switch your attention onto the positive aspects of life, instead of indulging your attention on upsetting things in life.  The more you stay positive, the happier you will feel.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

You Have Everything You Need


“Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts
 and happenings.  It consists mainly of the storm of thought
 that is forever flowing through one’s head.” 
~ Mark Twain

Is happiness something that you believe will come attached to some future event or special person? Are you postponing happiness until you have the ideal job, live in your dream home, find the perfect mate, retire, or have some other future situation? If you find yourself caught up in these thoughts, you will always be waiting for happiness to arrive, which never will, because those types of events will bring only temporary fulfillment. 

Don’t fall into the trap of delayed happiness! By repeating these types of thoughts, you convince yourself that some outside circumstance or future event will bring happiness. This is one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves. Be happy now, because that’s really all we ever experience—the present moment. The root of happiness is not connected to the circumstances in your life. 

Benjamin Franklin described it like this: “Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances.” If you’re not happy now, then you won’t be happy no matter what happens in the future unless you change yourself. You hold the key to your own happiness.

The only constant in life is change. Instinctively we know this, so it is only natural to dream of a future aligned with our deepest desires. There will be hopes and dreams along your journey, each one eagerly anticipated as you walk through life. Focusing on these dreams and goals is a healthier mind-set than focusing on the past, yet do not forget to also stay present as much as possible. Enjoy today. These are the good old times that you will talk about someday. Life is what’s happening while you’re waiting for the future. Experience the journey with joy and awareness, because in the end most destinations are just stepping-stones to bigger dreams.

Not only are life situations not connected to happiness, but neither are people. Other people can’t make you happy anymore than we can make other people happy. Happiness is not something that can be given to someone. Happiness is something that we can only give to ourselves.

Many people have fallen into the habit of trying to fill the emptiness, loneliness, and sadness they feel in their lives by thinking they can buy happiness. They become mindless shoppers filling the boredom of their existence with new gadgets, toys, clothes, pocketbooks, shoes, jewelry, or any other thing that fancies them at the time. They look to the excitement of attaining new things to drown the pain of unhappiness in an attempt to bring passion back into their lives. And it seems to actually work, temporarily. The high of the new purchase soon subsides, and the hollowness that they feel inside still remains, so they begin looking for the next new thing to distract them from the real issue. But in reality all they need to do is to activate the happiness within themselves that has been suppressed.

Lesson: 

You hold the key to your happiness,
 not special people, new things, 
or ideal life circumstances.

Exercise: 

Is there something that you’ve been waiting for before you will allow yourself to be happy? Contemplate what those thoughts do to you. Thoughts like that convince yourself that you can’t be happy until something happens. Begin to believe that you can be happy regardless of what the future holds. Begin to believe that you have the power be happy now. Begin to believe that you hold the key to your own happiness.

This exercise is meant to raise the awareness of your beliefs about what causes happiness. Once you can see that some of your beliefs may be based on false criteria, you will begin to believe that you have everything you need to be happy.

Laura Barrette Shannon
author of Be Happy Now book

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Surround Yourself with Serenity


A simple Zen garden is great for a few minutes of meditation

Is your home or work desk a mess? Feeling that your living environment isn’t quite as organized as you would like it to be is a personal call. Everyone has his or her own comfort level of tidiness. If your environment isn’t aligned with your level of expectation, it can make you feel uncomfortable, scattered, and stressed. 

Our living spaces are reflections of ourselves. When the mind is scattered, it flows out into the environment, manifesting as disorganization. 

Everyone has his own level of comfort when dealing with how he keeps his environment. Some are perfectionists—one item out of place or one dirty dish will start the mind chatter. Others are more relaxed with how much clutter can accumulate before it bothers them. If it begins to bother you with mental chatter—“This is a mess. I really need to clean this. I hope no one comes over and see this mess”—then it’s time to take action. If it is bothering you, then start to reorganize and freshen it up. 

As your living environment begins to be more organized, your mind will feel more relaxed. If you can purge unnecessary items or too many objects you have been holding onto that represent memories from the past, you will feel a surge of freedom. When we hang onto objects, we invest some of our metal energy in emotional attachment. Whenever you can release these types of items, it is an act of healing and personal freedom. 

Lesson: 

Your living environment is a reflection of your state of mind.
 A soothing environment aids in calming your mind. 

Exercise: 

To regain comfort and peace in your living spaces, choose one small area where you spend a lot of time, and freshen it up by cleaning and organizing it. Reduce clutter and add peaceful items, such as fresh flowers, a water fountain, candles, pictures of loved ones, or anything else that soothes you. A zen sand and rock garden can do wonders for a few brief minutes of meditation.  I have a salt rock lamp that I keep on my desk. I also enjoy lighting incense , candles, and listening to relaxing music. Try different methods to activate your senses of sight, smell, and sound. 

Start small. Even one clean and calm area will make a difference in how you feel. Start with where ever you spend the most time. As you feel the resulting peace of mind and calmness, you will be encouraged to continue cleaning another day. Be patient with yourself as you move into a more peaceful environment.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Desire Less, Allow More

When we come from a mind-set of wants and desires, it can reinforce a lacking mentality. Constantly dwelling on your wants and desires instead of what you appreciate about your life right now causes disharmony in the mind. It is perfectly normal to dream of a future aligned with your innermost desires. As a matter of fact, it is essential to focus on dreams to manifest them. But it is when we are focused on the thoughts of dissatisfaction of today, based on the desire of the future, that our heads get filled with thoughts of lack. 

When we come from a mind-set of being open and allowing, we are readying ourselves for action in alignment with our desires without the negative effect of a lacking mentality. It is a subtle difference of wording, but it makes a huge difference. For instance, one could say, “I want to be in better physical shape.” This statement is one of desire but does not necessarily promote action, and it might create feelings of self-judgment for the shape your are in today. When reworded to say, “I am allowing myself to live a healthier lifestyle and become open to new physical activities,” the stage is set for action which will produce desired results. Another example is this: “I want to find a nice man to date” versus “I am open to allowing a nice man to come into my life.” That’s it. Desire less; be open to allowing your dreams to manifest! 

Lesson: 


By desiring less, you allow more.


Exercise: 

What are the things you typically would say you want out of life? Practice rewording those desires into statements of allowance. Write down all of your most powerful desires. Next to them, rewrite the desires into affirmations of allowing. 

Start with this desire: “I want to be happy.” Allow this: “I am allowing more joy into my life every day by keeping my focus on gratitude, acceptance, and compassion.” 

Post the new statements where you will see them often, to remind yourself to be open for your dreams to manifest. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Full Moon Ceremony


In honor of the super full moon tonight I am sharing a simple ceremony that we do at my house every month.


What is the purpose of spiritual ceremonies and prayers? Are they just meaningless gestures and words, repeated without thought? Do they serve a purpose for those who have left behind the traditional organized religions in favor of a more spiritual one -on -one relationship with God or the Universal Life Energy?

In order to understand the importance that rituals, ceremonies, and prayers play in our spiritual growth it is important to understand the benefits of practicing them in the proper way. If you are not practicing them with emotional energy then they are just words and movements. So a simple background in energy is necessary first:

The Universe is made up of energy. Every physical thing is energy, condensed and formed into everything we see in this world. Beyond what our limited human senses can perceive, the energy of the Universe permeates and interconnects everything. Whenever you feel an emotion it is emitted out as energy from you. This emotional energy forms connections to other energy beings (humans, animals, etc) Think of them as strings. The more emotions you have for someone, the more energetic strings of attachment you have connecting you to each other.

The Universal Life Energy, or all the energy of this Universe combined is what most people call God. The bigger the energy system, the more consciousness it has. God is made up of everything, so it is the Alpha and Omega, omnipotent, and omnipresent~ the beginning and the end, knowing all things and everywhere at the same time.

Now, let's go back to the importance of ceremonies and prayers. Basically, ritualistic words and actions help us to focus on our intent and to elicit an emotional response in alignment with our intent. Intent without emotion is powerless. Prayers without emotion are just words, and ceremonies without emotion are just gestures. The feelings behind the rituals are what drives the results. Think of the prayers as vehicles and emotions as gas. The vehicle has the potential to get you where you want to go, your intent is the destination, but without gas it is just a plan that never gets put into action.

The proper use of ceremonies, then, is to help us to engage our attention and focus on our intent, and to aid us in evoking the emotional energy to drive the intent to fruition. I have found that designing my own prayers and rituals has brought them more personal meaning and enabled me to really get into the mood. The following is a full moon ceremony that I perform with friends every month. Feel free to customize it as you make it your own.

Full Moon Ceremony


RELEASE: The first part is lighting a small outdoor fire at sunset. This ritual involves releasing anything that no longer serves you, emotionally or physically. Some examples would be releasing resentments, anger, emotional pain, unhealthy habits, etc. Each person holds a stick and concentrates on what they wish to release, imagining all the negative emotions and actions going into the stick. Then the sticks are thrown into the fire. As the stick burns, each person brings up as much feeling as possible evoking the emotional release of whatever was ailing them. The feeling of being free of this negative emotion is what is required. It is an act of letting go of the pain and filling the hole with the loving energy of wholeness.

RESPECTS: Then we take time to pay our respects those who have passed, honor the Universal Energy Force for feeling our prayers, and sending white light loving energy out into those we love and then extend out into the world. You can use a prayer something like this:
    Oh God, we thank you, and feel gratitude in our hearts for this opportunity to experience this life. (Silent moments of intense loving emotion sent to God)
    So let it be...
    We send our loving thoughts and loving energy to those who have passed from our lives, and our gratitude for our time spent with them. (Silent moments of intense loving emotion sent to them)
    So let it be...
    Tonight, specifically, I would like to concentrate and send love to ______. I honor their past presence in my life and am grateful for the experience. (Silent moments of intense loving emotion toward this person.)
    So let it be....
    Let our loving energy extend out into the world. (Silent moments of intense loving emotion sent to the world.)
REFLECTIONS: Then we take a few minutes to watch the full moon and reflect on our past or present, to find life lessons, and to come to a feeling of gratitude for all that we have experienced. It is advisable to be very specific in this exercise, as trying to reflect on too much may dull the intensity of the emotion.
Suggestions to contemplate:
  • your childhood relationship with your Mother, Father, or a sibling.
  • Your relationship with an ex-love
  • your current relationship with one specific person.
  • How a specific event affected you and the lessons you can now see because you experienced it
  • A current situation of concern- forming an intent of a loving outcome for all.

REAFFIRMING INTENT: Then we each light an incense stick, while silently repeating our intent for the future. Again it is advisable to work on a specific intent to evoke the intensity of emotion. Think of the end result of your intent. Imagine you are living there now, and how it feels to be living this past dream. Imagine it like you remembering it as strong as a vivid memory. Feel the emotion of your creation as long as possible. As the smoke rises from the incense stick, let it be a representation of your emotional intent rising up to fruition. So let it be...

GRATITUDE: Simple prayer: God we are grateful for Life, Love, and this opportunity to come together as a group and commune with Universal Life and each other. (A few moments of intense feeling and silence) Amen

Then we have group discussion and enjoy each others company.

Be happy, my friends-

Laura Barrette Shannon



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Life's Practical Jokes :-)



Being caught without an umbrella in an unexpected rain, 
dropping ketchup on your shirt,
children dragging mud in on the freshly washed floor,
spilling coffee in your new car,
getting splashed with mud by a passing bus...

Sometimes life sends us these reminders to lighten-up, not take ourselves so seriously, to learn to laugh instead of being upset. Think of it as a friendly reminder to shake your head and just smile. 

Learning to laugh at the little ironies that pop up from time to time is a valuable coping mechanism.  It transmutes irritation into comical relief.  You will automatically feel better about the situation as you realize that these small inconveniences are really not that important anyway.  They bring the variety of surprise to a life of over expectation.  Not everything will always go the way you plan.  It is these tiny bits of practical jokes that Life will play on us that  reminds us not to sweat the small stuff.  It puts things back into perspective:    The objects we place emotional value in are just things.  Our physical appearance is not who we are, and a clean house will always need cleaning again.  Practice finding the humor in life's tiny inconveniences and minuscule tragedies.  The next time something unexpected and slightly irritating comes your way, take one long deep breath and then just shake your head and laugh.  Be grateful for the friendly reminder to lighten up your day, and enjoy telling the story with humor to make others laugh too!

Be happy, my friends-

Laura Barrette Shannon

Friday, April 27, 2012

10 Ways to Be Happier Now!


10 Quick Mood Enhancers:

SMILE. Studies have shown that the mere act of smiling actually fools the body into feeling happier. So fake it until you make it. Smile for no reason, and the smiles you get back will help to raise your spirits.


SHOWER. Water is naturally rejuvenating. It cleanses the mind and spirit as well as the body. If you are in a funk, take a long shower and you will immediately feel uplifted.

WALK. Taking a short walk will pep you up, release stress, and give you some exercise at the same time.

SING. Singing increases oxygen, clears the mind, and makes you feel good.

LAUGH. Laughter feels good, reduces stress, and brings people closer together. Learn to laugh at yourself. Watch comedies, tell silly jokes, or just start laughing all by yourself for no reason.

MEDITATE. The calming effects of meditation are well known. Even a short five-minute breathing meditation will de-stress you and lift your mood.

SERVICE. Helping others lifts the spirits of two people. Service is an act of spirituality.

DANCE. Dancing is great for stress relief, getting the blood pumping, and expressing the joy of living.

HUG SOMEONE. When we share our loving energy with others, it is reflected back at us. Feel the love. Hug someone!

STAND TALL. Did you know that the way you sit and stand can affect your mood? If you are hunched over with your head down and shoulders sagging, the chances are good that you are feeling unworthy, blue, or troubled. If you change your posture by keeping your shoulders back, head up, and back straight, you will not only start to appear more confident, you will feel it too.

For more happiness tips you can buy the book :) here:  Be Happy Now: Simple Steps for Enjoying Life

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Do You Always Have to Be Right?


Confidence is not being afraid to share your opinions; Wisdom is not being attached to them.”

~ LB Shannon

It is easy to get caught up in sharing your point of view with others. It’s a natural mode of communication. I share what I think about a subject and you share your thoughts about the subject. This type of communication goes on all day long. While it can be quite pleasant to talk to someone who shares your view, it can be frustrating to talk to someone with an opposing view.

More often than not, unhappy people will hold on to their opinions to the point of arguing. They would rather be right than let it go. They have convinced themselves that if they can’t get others to agree with them, they feel that their point of view is being threatened.

Agreement from other people is not necessary. Believe what you like, and let others do the same. Overly opinionated people haven’t learned that when others have an opinion that may be different from theirs, it is the other person’s right. They also haven’t learned that it is perfectly normal for other people to have varying opinions about many aspects of life. This type of closed-minded approach to communication can result in pompous thoughts of being smarter than the other person: “Obviously they are wrong and are too stupid to see it.” These thoughts of judgment, the aggravation, the bitterness that can arise from these confrontations is all because they had to show everyone that they were right. It was more important to be right than to be happy.

So how can we interact with others who have conflicting points of view from our own without conflict arising? It starts with being flexible with our own beliefs. Listen to their opinions. Ask questions like “Why do you think that is?” or “Where did you learn that?” The second key to interacting with opposing viewpoints is to understand that it is not always necessary to share your opposing thoughts. It isn’t your job to teach everyone around you to see things like you do. It’s okay to allow them to think differently than you do.

The most noticeable instances in my life concerning differing opinions are always politics. I’ve reached a point where I no longer put my two cents in these conversations. People are entitled to see the world from varying points of view, as each of us is unique in our perspective and life experiences. By not attempting to invalidate other’s opinions, I maintain peace of mind among some very opinionated people. Sometimes I even listen and ask questions so that I can begin to understand why they see the world the way they do.

Example #1:
Joe: “I think the moon is a spaceship for Martians.”
Mark: “That’s an interesting point of view! What makes you think that?”
Joe: “My grandfather told me when I was young.”
Mark: “Your grandfather sounds like an interesting guy. What else did he teach you?”

In this example, Joe shared an unpopular point of view about the moon. Instead of attempting to dispel Joe’s belief, or belittle him for his belief, Mark chose not to challenge the point of view that the moon is a spaceship. Mark asked for more information about Joe’s belief, which showed interest and also revealed the root of Joe’s odd belief. When Mark heard that Joe’s grandfather told him that the moon was a spaceship, he steered the conversation toward the grandfather. This technique of redirecting conversations is a useful tool for avoiding heated discussions when you come across a potential conflict of opinion.


Example #2:
Jane: “I can’t believe you are still married to John after he cheated on you again!”
Mary: “It’s understandable why you would feel that way. So how’s the new job going?”

In this example, Jane shared her unsolicited opinion about Mary’s marriage. Mary, in an attempt to avoid the subject, validated Jane’s right to her opinion but neither agreed nor disagreed. Instead, she changed the subject. Mary knew that it wasn’t necessary for her to defend her personal choices. She let Jane’s comment go, not choosing to start a debate on the subject of marriage and infidelity.

It’s not necessary to validate your actions and viewpoints to others. Be confident in your life choices and beliefs, but be willing to hear different points of view.

Lesson :

It is unnecessary to defend your point of view. Allow others the right to have their own opinions.

Exercises:
Ponder these questions. Be honest with yourself.
  • Do you take yourself so serious that when you meet people with a difference of opinion you feel the need to set them straight?
  • Do you feel irritated or even threatened by listening to opposing points of view?
  • Is it your job to teach everyone to think like you do?  

The next time someone shares an opinion or suggests an idea that is different from your own, see if you can resist the urge to share your point of view or push your own agenda. This exercise can be as simple as not being a backseat driver when someone else is driving or as challenging as listening to someone with a completely different political viewpoint.

Be aware of how it feels to rein in your ego. The uneasiness you feel is your ego fighting for control. As you practice ego awareness, it will become easier to recognize the ego’s controlling manipulations and easier to ignore it. When you can come to a point of humility, not always having to prove your opinions and allowing others to have alternate views, it brings more peace to relationships and to your own mind.

Practice being an observer or a listener without getting into debates. Make an effort to hold your tongue without putting in your two-cents point of view, even if you think they are totally wrong. This is a valuable skill that will provide much less drama in your life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Going with the Flow


Cling not to the withered flowers of life. Keep only the memory of their beauty in their prime." ~ LB Shannon

Learning to flow with life is an important aspect to being happy.

Each of us must learn to let go of anything, any habit, or anyone that no longer is in alignment with our innermost sense of being. Some things, situations, or people are purposeful for a time and then the cycle comes to an end. Just because it ends does not negate the meaning of what it was in its time, just as a beautiful annual flower will fade, yet the memory of the beauty is what remains. And yet, even in death, flowers leave seeds for new growth. Such is the rhythm of life. People come and people go. This moment is here, and then it is gone.

We live in a dynamic universe where nothing ever stays the same. Life is never static; it’s continually flowing with ups and downs like the ocean tides. When we fight the nature of these tides, we cause undue stress within our minds. Enjoy living in the present as it is, but don’t get too attached to it, because life will be different soon enough. By riding on top of the waves instead of being swept up in the middle of them, we have the ability to steer ourselves along the wave. Learn to flow with the waves of life by riding the extremes with awareness and acceptance, or those waves will knock you down for sure.

Besides the tides of life, there is always an overall current that pushes you along. Learn to flow with life like water in a river. When rocks appear, effortlessly flow around the obstacles without even slowing down. The only dams you will encounter are the ones you build yourself: attempting to move against the current (trying to move backwards), getting stuck in a whirlpool (repeating the same mistakes over and over), or attempting to run off course (moving away from your authentic self). These movements are unnatural and filled with resistance. If you feel like your natural flow is off track, ask yourself if you are causing this resistance by choosing not to flow with life.

Remember to flow with the unexpected and enjoy the journey. After all, detours in life are the seeds of good stories!

Lesson:

Flow with life’s tides and currents.

Exercise:
Practice flowing with the unexpected. Embrace life’s detours. Detours aren’t running off course. They are following the natural path of life, winding in unforeseen directions but still going with the flow. We can’t always see every turn coming up, but we can enjoy the journey as life takes us through a different territory.

If you are someone who feels the tides of life as they rise high and fall low, be aware that they never stay high or low. It’s just a matter of riding the tide with awareness. Don’t let the low tides draw you down with them.

When you feel caught up in a low tide of your life, repeat this affirmation: “Today I release the withered flowers of my past, looking back on only their beauty and perfection, allowing me to focus on the seeds of new growth.”

Stay aware and be patient, and your high tide will soon come.

Laura Barrette Shannon
author of Be Happy Now:  Simple Steps for Enjoying Life

Thursday, April 12, 2012

You Are the Narrator of Your Life

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
Your story is what you tell yourself and others about your life. We do this all the time when we meet new people. The longer we know them, the more we fill in our life story with whole chapters and characters we have met. The key is to know that you are telling the story, so you have the power to change the viewpoint of the narration.

You are the narrator of your life. Begin watching how you talk about yourself. Your every word defines who you want the world to see and reinforces how you think of yourself. If you keep the narration focused on unlimited potential for the future, lessons from past adversity, appreciation for the people who come and go, and gratitude for life itself, you will not only enjoy life more, you will be a joy to be around. Be a light in your own life, be your own best cheerleader, and watch your life be transformed.

Is your story one of being a victim of circumstance, or is it one of triumph through adversity? Recognize that either version of the story is just a different perspective of the same past events. For example, I could tell my story from a negative point of view …

I became physically and mentally disabled in my late twenties and early thirties. I went through an emotionally crushing divorce in that same time period. My condition eventually required brain surgery when I was thirty-three. One month before the brain surgery, my eleven-year-old daughter was tragically killed in an accident because some jerk cut them off on the highway. My life has been destroyed by things out of my control. How can I ever be happy? I have to deal with disabling health issues every day, which further makes my life sad and depressing. Life sucks!

This is a Woe is me! type story of victimization.

Or I can tell my story with positive passion …

Many years ago, I went through some emotional and physical trauma. These events provided an atmosphere of deep introspection of life and were a catalyst for self-transformation. I learned that I can be happy no matter what my past was, my current life circumstances are, or whatever the future holds. I am grateful for my past, because it has given me the opportunity to grow into who I am today.

This is a Life is good! type story.

It is important to understand that both versions of the story are just different perspectives of the same past events. The past hasn’t changed; the way I look at it has changed. What I choose to emphasize has changed. This switch from a negative perspective into a positive one changed my life.

The choice in how you see and tell your story will affect your self-image and how others see you. Don’t play the victim in your life story, and you won’t feel like a victim.

Today ask yourself, “What’s my story?” If you don’t like the story, then change it. Don’t fabricate lies, just re-frame how you describe past events and who you are. If you had past adversity or tragedy, begin to speak only of the lessons you have learned. Don’t focus on the pain. Focus on how you used the experience to grow as a person or how you learned more about yourself and life. If you can’t quite tell it in a positive fashion yet, then do not tell it at all! You write your own story. Make it a happy one.

Lesson #12:

You are the narrator of your life story. Make it a happy one!

Exercises:
Take time to sit down and rewrite your life story. It may take many rewrites before you eliminate all of the negative narration that you have been accustomed to telling yourself and others. At least start with one happier, more positive version of your story. You will be able to rewrite it as often and as much as you desire. There are numerous ways to tell any story. Make yours a happy one, even if you don’t believe it yet. Until you rewrite your life story into a happy one, refrain from telling it.

Watch how you talk about yourself and what you say about your life story. Story lines to avoid are the following:

“I can’t do that.”
“I’m not good at ____”
“I’m not good enough.”
“I feel like a victim of life circumstances.”
“I feel like a victim of past events.”
“Life is difficult.”
“I’ll never be happy because ____.”
“I’ll be happy when ______.”

You get the idea. Watch what you say about yourself and your life. Argue for your limitations, and you will always be right. Tell stories of victimization, and you play the part of victim.

Begin to use story lines that cast you as the hero.

“I learned so much going through _________. I am truly grateful for the experience.”

“Going through the loss of __________ really taught me how I should never take things for granted.”

“I learned that I can grow stronger through adversity.”

“I am not afraid to follow my dreams, because I know that failure is just a step on the path and another notch in my belt of experience.”

“I know I can be happy no matter what happens in my life.”

“Life is good!”

“I chose not to see myself as a victim of past circumstances but a student of life. If I didn’t learn something, then that would be a real tragedy.”

You are the narrator and the director and can cast yourself as any part you wish in your life story.

Advanced Exercise:

Moving beyond Your Story

Who would you be without your story? When you define yourself by your life story, you are still limiting yourself. You are more than your past, no matter how delightful, painful, exciting, or dramatic it has been. You are just a character in the story, not the story itself. It can be tempting, when people ask who you are, to start telling your life story. The next time someone asks you to share about yourself, tell them your dreams, your values, and what sparks your passion. It’s not who you were yesterday that matters; it’s who you choose to be now and tomorrow.

Laura Barrette Shannon
author of Be Happy Now:  Simple Steps for Enjoying Life

Buy Book Now:   http://tinyurl.com/7nmfzpc