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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