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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.


 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.

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. 

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