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A Beautiful Life Now

July 12, 2019 by  
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If someone is really rude and totally offends you but then later offers a very sincere apology, most of us would probably forgive that person and move on with our lives. However, when most of us human beings make a mistake or screw something up, in many cases we will not forgive ourselves and so we carry that guilt around for days or years and that can hurt us in so many ways.

Quoting from Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully, a great book that I’ve quoted before, “Over time, as thinking minds begin to settle, we’ll start to see our patterns and habits far more clearly. This can be an experience. I can’t overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were or think we ought to be. By cultivating nonjudgmental openness to ourselves and to whatever arises, to our surprise and delight we will find ourselves genuinely welcoming the never-pin-downable quality of life, experiencing it as a friend, a teacher and a support and no longer as an enemy.”

Pema talks a lot about acceptance of ourselves and the world as it is and how we should appreciate it as it is now. She talks about what she calls the “third commitment”, which is key to this kind of acceptance and appreciation. (You need to read her book to find out what the first and second commitment are and how they can greatly improve a person’s life.) To quote her again, “The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself.” She goes on to add that, “The attitude of the third commitment is that we live in a world that is intrinsically good, intrinsically awake, and our path is to realize this. Simply put, the practice at this stage is to turn toward your experience, all of it, and never turn away.

Pema talks a lot about being kind to others especially to ourselves. She talks about the process of growing-up and working toward feeling totally relaxed and free. She says, “that process, that transition, is one of becoming comfortable with exactly what we’re feeling as we feel it. The key practice to support us in this is mindfulness–being fully present right here, right now. Meditation is one form of mindfulness, but mindfulness is called by many names: attentiveness, nowness, and presence are just a few.”

Pema Chodron further explains that we need to pay attention to all the details of our life. “The specific details of our lives will, of course, differ, but for all of us, wakefulness concerns everything from how we make dinner to how we speak to one another to how we take care of our clothes, our floors, our forks and spoons”.

I think the bottom line is, if we pay more attention to the details of our lives it will give us more ways to free ourselves and that can help us free ourselves from suffering. So, we need to accept ourselves, appreciate our life as it is now, and pay attention. And we need to do all that, right now.

Keys to Happiness

June 21, 2019 by  
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I have one more bit from the Dalai Lama’s books for you.  This post will be a simple and short listing of thoughts and comments from him, thoughts that can be uplifting and supportive of your happiness and that you can easily and quickly review and share with your spouse, children, grandchildren and friends.

  1. Empathy and altruism raises you up.
  2. Science backs up claims about the physical and emotional benefits of a compassionate state of mind.
  3. Reaching out and helping others lifts your happiness level.
  4. Freedom from suffering starts with accepting suffering as a natural fact of human existence.
  5. Studies show that reaching out to help others induces feeling of a calmer mind and less depression.
  6. For a better life, confront your problems, fears, and bad habits. Don’t avoid them…then put your brain to work to change them.
  7. Ingredients that cement relationships: Affection, compassion, and mutual respect.
  8. The cause of suffering which one should seek to remove: ignorance, craving, and hatred.
  9. Unhappiness comes to each of us when we think ourselves at the center of the world.
  10. Remember, it takes time to train your mind.
  11. Necessary ingredients to happiness:
    1. Affection
    2. Warmth
    3. Friendship
    4. Compassion
    5. State of mind
    6. Calmness of mind
    7. Peace of mind
  1. Remember this … if you have real peace of mind you can be happy even with poor health.
  2. If you believe the purpose of life is happiness, then work on discarding the things that lead to unhappiness.
  3. If you want to have a deeper connection to others then reach out and help others.
  4. Empathy is critical to build compassion.
  5. Understand people by knowing and appreciating their background.

And I will add one of my own … if you want to raise you happiness level quickly, just walk outside. There is something magical about the great outdoors and what it does to the human mind

Positivity and Compassion

June 14, 2019 by  
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A very critical part of happiness and contentment is training the mind and, yes, that does take time, but is it ever worth the time you take! The authors of the book, The Art of Happiness, which I talked about last week, have this advice: “Everyday, as soon as you get up, you can develop sincere positive motivation, thinking, ‘I will utilize this day in a more positive way. I should not waste this very day.’ And then, at night before bed, check what you’ve done, asking yourself, ‘Did I utilize this day as I planned?’ If it went wrong, then regret what you did and critique the day and decide what you are going to do to correct the negative stuff of the day. So, through methods such as this, you can gradually strengthen the positive aspects of the mind.”

I think this is why the self-talk that the great Paul J. Meyer of Waco, Texas introduced me to is so very helpful. I have about 10 different mantras that I run through my mind almost every day and many times I say them out loud. Here are a few of those

  1. I am strong and worthy.
  2. I am upbeat and positive.
  3. I am happy and healthy.
  4. I live in the present moment.
  5. I love people and I am becoming more and more social.
  6. I try to live big and give big. I make “to do” lists and carry them out.

It’s amazing how I can feel down and out and how running that self-talk through my mind many times can lift my mood and make me feel so much better. The mind has a lot of plasticity in it according to scientists. The book goes on to say something that I know is true and will work for me and you: “Neuroscientist have documented the fact that the brain can design new patterns, net combinations of nerve cells and neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit messages between nerve cells) in response to new input. In fact, our brains are malleable, ever changing, re-configuring their wiring according to new thoughts and experiences. And as a result of learning, the function of individual neurons themselves change, allowing electrical signals to travel along them more readily.” Scientist call the brains inherent capacity to change “plasticity”.

The Dalai Lama and Mr. Cutler have so many great and powerful things to say about how to achieve happiness and they are so very effective. So here is one more quote from Mr. Cutler talking about the Dalai Lama: “He can see that if someone treats him with compassion and affection, then it makes him feel happy. So, on the basis of that experience, it would help him to realize that other people also feel good when they are shown warmth and compassion Therefore, recognizing this fact might make him more inclined to give them compassion and warmth. At the same time, he would discover that the more you give warmth, the more warmth you receive”.

And that, my friends, will almost for sure raise both the giver’s and the receiver’s level of happiness!

The Positive Path to Happiness

June 7, 2019 by  
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A few days ago, I was going through my library and came across a great book by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D. written back in 1998. I hadn’t read it for a very long time but as I was thumbing through the pages my mind was captured by so many great statements, concepts, and advice that were so motivating so I kept reading.

The book’s title is The Art of Happiness. I’ve always admired this great man, the Dalai Lama, and what he has done for the world and for so many minds. He’s helped lift us to great heights. Years ago, I felt so very fortunate to meet and greet him at his hotel room and escort him to a huge gather of people and I was more than a little overwhelmed and privileged to introduce him to that audience.

I want to share with you, my readers, some of his great ideas and advice on “happiness” for us humans. I’d also like to share some of the wise words and insights that his co-author Howard Cutler added to the book from his own experiences and all the time he spent with the Dalai Lama.

Let me start with some great comments from the great book I mentioned. These are about positive thinking which is so very important to raise and keep your happiness consistently elevated.

The Dalai Lama said, “If happiness is simply a matter of cultivating a more positive mental state like kindness and so on, why are so many unhappy? … Achieving genuine happiness may require bringing about transformation in your outlook and your way of thinking and this is not a simple matter. It requires the application of so many different directions. You shouldn’t have the notion, for instance, that there is just a key, a secret, and if you can get that right then everything will be okay. It is similar to taking proper care of the physical body. You need a variety of vitamins and nutrients, not just one or two.”

He went on to say, “In the same way, in order to achieve happiness, you need a variety of approaches and methods to deal with and overcome the varied and complex negative mental states. And if you are seeking to overcome certain negative ways of thinking, it is not possible to accomplish that simply by adopting a particular thought or practicing a technique once or twice. Change takes time. There are lots of negative mental traits, so you need to address and counteract each one of these. That isn’t easy. It requires the repeated application of various techniques and taking the time to familiarize yourself with the practices. It’s a process of learning.”

Next week I will talk more about the specific practices and mindset that a person needs to work on and develop while bringing you more wisdom from the great Dalai Lama.

Boosting the Brain with Thanks

November 23, 2018 by  
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Here’s a good question for you: Did you find yourself giving a lot of thanks yesterday? Or were you distracted by all the turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie? I hope you were taking time to give a ton of thanks! Isn’t that what we all should do on that day? After all it is called “Thanksgiving”! But that isn’t the only reason to give thanks this holiday season and throughout the year.

I recently heard on a broadcast that there is one big benefit we all can receive from saying “thanks” or “thank you”. Research into the human brain has shown that saying thank you, or otherwise giving verbal appreciation or gratitude, signals the brain to release the feel good, feel happy brain chemical dopamine.

Sometime ago, I wrote about how when a person smiles, even if it is a forced smile, the brain releases three of the four feel good brain chemicals – dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins (the forth brain chemical is oxytocin). These four chemicals, produced by the brain, not only make you feel more relaxed, they also could lower your blood pressure and your heart rate. Some studies even suggest that if they are released often enough, they can even help you live longer.

Another big benefit from giving thanks to others is that, if accompanied by a big sincere smile, your gesture will cause the other person to smile right back at you and then they are more likely to smile at the next person they encounter. So, you see, you are spreading some good stuff and helping others just by being thankful and letting other people know it.

And here’s another thing that has been shown to lift people’s spirits and that is simply to keep a journal in which you make note of the things you are thankful for. By writing down what, and who, you are grateful for, you are giving your brain more determination. This helps improve and lift your attention, enthusiasm and even lifts your energy.

So, during this holiday season, and beyond, we all need to focus on giving thanks, showing and expressing our gratitude, and, yes, even thinking about our positive qualities and of happy memories in order to boost our serotonin levels.

One last thought… don’t forget that laughing and social interaction both cause the brain to release those great feel good chemicals as well! So, this holiday season, be sure you have plenty of opportunities to boost those feel good chemicals and show your thanks and appreciation.

 

All the Love out There

October 12, 2018 by  
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Last week I ended my blog by writing about the great tears of joy I experienced shortly after posting a picture of me at my daughter’s grave site, a moment that itself was filled with tears of pain and sorrow! So, you may ask, what brought on the great tears of joy?

Shortly after posting the picture of my daughter Kristin’s grave site, I began to receive these wonderful messages of love with many kind words of sympathy, love and support. Wow, did those words of love, coming from several dozen friends, family and even total strangers, ever get to me, bringing on those tears of joy!

That got me thinking about how powerful love is in our lives and how much of it is out there. Even though it’s all around  us you sure don’t hear or see much of that on the news, so, I’m guessing that some people don’t really fully realize how much love there is in the world. But, the opposite of love—that thing called hate—makes the news pretty much every day. Why is that? I think the main reason is because it can be, and usually is, so very sensational, so it really stands out and grabs our attention. Like the mass shooting last year in Las Vegas or the kidnapping of a kid or the rape of a woman and, of course, lately, the terrible things we are hearing about due to the MeToo movement.

The news certainly doesn’t spend much, if any time, on how much love a parent shows his or her kids. Once in a great while the news might have a short story on the great love of a couple on their 50th or 75th wedding anniversary, but the divorce of a couple, especially if they are famous, certainly makes the front page and the top of the hour TV news.

I think we all need to pay more attention to that great thing called “love” and give more of it to those around us and, yes, even people we have just met. We need to Encourage our kids and those around us to share more and more love each day, through words and deeds. And I want to publicly send out a HUGE THANK YOU AND LOVE BACK to those wonderful people who sent words of love, great sympathy, and support to me on what have would have been my daughter’s birthday!

 

Death’s Loving Lesson

October 5, 2018 by  
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This past weekend, on September 30th, I was both celebrating and grieving. That day is my daughter Kristin’s birthday. She would have been 49 but she tragically died many years ago, at the tender age of 16. Yes, I do want to celebrate her birthday but it is a day of mourning and tears at the same time. I don’t always visit her grave because it makes me grieve more but this year I did, taking red roses that I placed on her grave.  Think how much more death would hurt all of us if some of us never had to die. Like that’s going to happen… NOT!

I do think it’s so very interesting that there are lessons that can be learned from a good friend or loved one’s death. I know when my Kristin died it made me a much, much more caring and empathetic person. I wanted to be there, to help, support, and love my friends and family more than I ever did before. From that day on I became so very caring and I really could feel and share other people’s pain and sorrows when they lost someone close to them or even had other problems and difficulties in their lives.

When I was young I had the crazy belief that I would never die since there would be a second coming of Christ and no one would suffer death. I sure remember how so many people, back in 1999, really believed that a second coming would happen as the world moved from the year 1999 to 2000! Well, that didn’t happen.

Let’s face it, death is an absolute fact of life and no one can get out of this life alive. As we age, most of us feel that time moves faster and faster although we’d love it to slow down since we have so much more living we want to do. I think we’d pay almost any price if we could buy an extension on our lives.  Years ago, when I turned 60, I used to joke and say to guys that were in their 30’s, “Hey, if it were possible for us to switch ages and you become 60 and I got to be your age, would you do it if I paid you a million dollars cash?” Believe it or not, about half the young people I asked that question to said yes. Wow… I sure would do it if it were possible, but I heard a rumor that it’s not.

However, we have options – we can take care of ourselves. We can eat good, healthy food, keep our bodies moving, and stay well connected with social groups which will extend our lives to a degree.  Plus, we can concentrate on living every day to the max – it’s a give more and live more concept.  We can love our friends, neighbors, and family as much as we are conceivably able to, including going out of our way to be there for them, helping them when they need us, and bringing more joy and happiness to them which, in return, will bring the same to us.

Yes, death of a loved one is tough but there are lessons to be learned from it and it can make you a better person which is a blessing to everyone, including yourself. Next week I want to tell you what happened that brought tears of great joy right after I posted a picture of myself putting those roses on Kristin’s grave.

Forgiving Ourselves

June 8, 2018 by  
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How do you and I feel when we set our sights and goals very high only to fall short of those objectives?  If you are like me, it’s very easy to get down on yourself and beat yourself up and that can set you back a few miles mentally, making you feel terrible or pretty much worthless.  This can happen to anyone, even the very rich and very famous, as we have sadly seen with a number of super-rich and famous people that have taken their own lives.

I grew up in a culture that pounded into my head the bible scripture of Matthew 5:48 which says “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Quite frankly, I think that did me more harm than good, because as a young boy, I tried and tried but couldn’t seem to be “perfect” in anything at all. I would look around at other people and saw many that seemed to have a perfect life.  Little did I know then that pretty much no one on the planet has had a perfect life. If a person spends too much time and effort trying to become perfect, it can absolutely ruin them. Quite frankly, I think that scripture passage has been the cause of more than a few suicides.

We certainly don’t want to stop trying to reach our lofty goals and become better and better at whatever we choose to do, but we also must learn and practice forgiving ourselves.  It’s kind of strange to me that sometimes it seems easier to forgive someone else when they screw up but much harder to forgive ourselves. I totally agree with John M. Grohol Psy.D. when he wrote his “5 Ways of Letting Go of the Past”

  1. Make a decision to let it go.
  2. Express your pain and your responsibility.
  3. Stop being a victim and blaming others.
  4. Focus on the present, the here and now, and joy.
  5. Forgive them and forgive yourself.

Then there is some super wise advice from a great writer by the name of a Noah St. John. It’s from his book called The Book of AFFORMATIONS®, regarding a program he calls “Permission to Succeed”:

  1. Admit your past mistakes.
  2. Realize you did the best you could do at the time.
  3. Take actions to make sure you don’t repeat those mistakes.

Our brains also play a big a part in our success and failure, as Noah notes in another book of his, Get Rid of Your Head Trash: How to Avoid 3 Big Money Mistakes Even Smart People Make.  I love this title because it really says it all.

In Noah’s book The Secret Code of Success, he maintains that we all need to let up on ourselves and give ourselves breaks and take time to enjoy and celebrate the self. You need to let go of the past when it’s hurting you and accept the present. He states that the key to letting go of the past – and I’d say even if it’s the past of 5 minutes – is to forgive yourself and others that may have mistreated you. That’s great advice that works to make our lives so much better, more successful, and more productive. Perhaps we don’t have not perfect lives, but they can be pretty darn good ones with so much less stress!

 

Of Family, Friendship, and Love

December 23, 2017 by  
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I want to give you a HUGE Merry Christmas wish and thank you so very much for being you. I do sincerely appreciate the great opportunity you have given me to share my thoughts with you, my reader, and do honestly wish and hope that my ideas and advice helps your life and those around you. What would this world be if it wasn’t for great friends and family? At this time of year those people can, and should be, even more important to all of us.

What would your world and your life be like if you had a billion dollars but not a single friend or any family? I’m not saying money is not at all important but it’s almost completely worthless without people around you that you dearly love and that love you just as much.

So, at this very special time of year, let’s all go out of our way to give tons of love and appreciation to our family and loved ones and while we are at it, why not seek out more friends and push for deeper relationships with our current friends. Don’t you agree that it would be so worthwhile to do so? Okay … so, let’s all go out and do it!

P.S. In last week’s blog I said I’d write about how the right foods, vitamins, and exercise can boost your feel-good brain chemicals. And I will but I thought that could wait until after Christmas. So, we’ll see you next week.

A Million Dollar Feeling

November 12, 2017 by  
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As we are quickly approaching the holiday season of celebration and of giving I couldn’t help but remember when, several years ago, just before Christmas, I was at Walmart and a single mom, who looked down on her luck, was in line just in front of me.  She was holding a few items as the clerk added up the bill. She kept asking what the total was as she anxiously clutched onto other items saying she only had $40.  As she paid for her purchases, I reached over and pushed the items she was leaving behind over to my pile and said to the clerk, “I want to buy these items for my new friend.”

I bought them and handed them to her and, wow, … she, very emotionally, thanked me over and over again.  And so did the clerk! I walked out of the store feeling on top of the world. You’d think I had given her a thousand dollars but in reality, it was only a $7.49 gift. On the other hand, it felt like I’d gotten a million dollars in satisfaction and warm feelings.

Another one of my favorite things to do is to give kids a $2-dollar bill and tell them it’s for good luck. Usually when the parent of the kid thanks me, I say, “Hey, I’m an investor and the $2 investment just gave me a thousand-dollar smile, and I think that is a super return on my investment!” And it is absolutely true!

That day at Walmart, that woman I helped wished me a “Merry Christmas” multiple times as she took her 7-year-old daughter by the hand who, of course, had a $2 bill in her other hand. From time to time, I’ve done the same thing I did at Walmart in grocery stores and at gas stations. Like the lady at Walmart, the look in these people’s eyes let me know that this small thing truly made a difference for them, not because of the dollar amount but because a complete stranger cared enough to help.

What I did was certainly not unique, as I know of many people that help strangers and know the great feeling both parties receive. But I thought, as we approach the giving season, that I would suggest to my readers, whether you’ve done this kind of thing or not, to give it a try this season. If you haven’t done this before, you might be very surprised at the great feeling that it gives you and as well as the stranger that received your gift. Try it and I promise you will love it!

 

I’ve been getting such great comments and feedback on my blogs since I began emailing it in addition to posting it at www.ignitemylifenow.com

 

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