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A Little Charity and a Huge Return

February 23, 2020 by  
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A while back, at Christmas time, I was in Walmart and a single mom in line just in front of me was holding a few extra items as the clerk was will up her bill. She kept asking what the total was as she anxiously clutched the extra possible items she obviously wanted but wasn’t sure she could afford. When she got to $40, she told the clerk that would be all she could pay for and she laid the other items aside.

As she paid for her purchases, I reached over and pushed the items she was leaving behind over to my pile and told the clerk, “I want to buy these items for my new friend.” I made the purchases and handed them to the lady who 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 $1000 cash although it was, in reality, only a $7.50 gift. On the other hand, it felt like a million dollars in satisfaction and warm feelings for me.

Even though I have done this type of thing many times before and for a lot more money, it never fails to feel like a unique and special experience. This last experience felt especially wonderful. Maybe it was that look in her eyes that let me know this truly made a difference for her during the holiday season. She said “Merry Christmas” to me over and over again as she took her 7 year old daughter by the hand, a child who, of course, I had just given a $2 dollar bill to for good luck, something I love to do and try to do almost every day.

I know a whole lot of people who do this same thing. There was a report on the news some time ago about a rash of anonymous people going into Walmarts and paying off layaways for complete strangers, some spending thousands of dollars so they could help multiple families. What I did was not unique, but it might be for some people, maybe even for you, my reader.  So, I’d say if you have never helped a stranger in this way, give it a try and see what a great feeling it gives you as well as the stranger that receives your gift. Try it at least once. I promise you’ll love it!

Only 380 Hours Till the New Year

December 15, 2019 by  
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So, do you think it’s too early to start on your list of New Year resolutions? I think it is very helpful and more productive to start thinking early about what you plan to do and accomplish in the new year. For me, if I write them down as I think of them, I’m so much more driven to follow through and carry out those resolutions.

So, no, I don’t believe, at all, that it’s too early to begin making your list. It’s only about 2 weeks before the new year comes in! Make you own list based on what you want out of your life in the next year and beyond but here are some ideas.

COMMON RESOLUTIONS

  • Save more money this year.
  • Work on better health, including exercise, diet, weight loss, and drinking lots of water.
  • Travel more! One of my favorites. I usually pick specific places too, places that are unique and exotic, in the USA and overseas.
  • Spend more time with family and friends.
  • Spend more time reading and writing.
  • Spend time to organize and do it regularly.
  • Work harder at living in the right now moments.
  • Donate and volunteer for a good cause.
  • Write to yourself and give self-compliments.
  • Set up new and good routines.
  • Meditate on a regular basis.
  • Look for, and make, new friends.
  • Work on having more gratitude for others and your life.
  • Do little acts of kindness on a regular basis.

I try to make resolutions that are realistic, and I usually put a time frame or limit on each goal. That way I am more likely to succeed. It’s always a good idea to take time to review last year’s resolutions and make note of the ones that you followed through on, and the ones you didn’t, and then analyze why you accomplished the successfully completed goals and why you didn’t succeed with others.

REASONS YOU MIGHT FALL SHORT ON RESOLUTIONS

  • Resolutions were way too big or unrealistic.
  • Too much thinking and not enough doing or follow through.
  • Lack of detailed planning and scheduling.
  • Not fully believing in yourself.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by how much you will have to do.
  • Failure to write down your resolutions.
  • Not ready for change.

I hope you agree with me that it’s not too early to start thinking about making note of what your new year’s resolutions are going to be. For me, just writing this blog has got me thinking quite hard about my own new year’s resolutions.

I’m going to repeat myself, but this is important and so very helpful… take time to review last year’s resolutions and try to understand why you succeeded on some and why you fell short on others. Consider what you may be able to do this year to make sure you will have a better success rate in the coming new year.

Sudden and Shocking

October 27, 2019 by  
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A few days ago, it was an absolutely shocking day for the Haroldsen and Whitcamp family.  All seemed to be going well with all my kids and grandkids. Everyone was happy and healthy but then I got a phone call from my son Marcus. “Dad, I have something very terrible I have to tell you,” he said and then he began trying to get the words out but emotion and tears were obviously getting in the way. Finally, he was able to tell me that one of his 2-year-old identical twins, Kate, was in the hospital and has been diagnosed with leukemia. I was stunned and speechless. Little Kate and her twin Ellie are very sweet, darling, and cuddly, and I couldn’t, in my wildest imagination, expect such a terrible thing happening to such a beautiful, innocent little girl. As I write this blog, she is undergoing chemotherapy, having bone marrow taken out of her little tiny bones for examination, and who knows what else is happening and the pain inside her little brain.

It’s so easy to think that your life is going to be what you planned on it being and, of course, much of it can be if you set goals, work at reaching those goals, and take care of yourself. But life can, and often does, toss us some tough curve balls and that can come on suddenly. Very quick changes and quick turns will hit most of us at some point in our lives.

Anyone who thinks that they have, or will have, a perfect life, and think it will always be that way, is totally deceiving themselves. No one on this planet has a perfect life. Oh yes, you can have a pretty darn good and comfortable life, but you never know what huge shock any one day can bring to you and your loved ones. At minimum, no one gets out of this life alive!

Not that all death is a tragedy. If you live to be 90 or 100 and then slip away, it’s sad for all those people that loved you but not a shocking tragedy like it is for a young person. I know a little bit about this having lost a 16-year-old daughter as well as having my dad pass away at 84. Everyone knows that when a person is 84, 90, or 100, life is about over, but we should also know that we can live on through our kids and grandkids and maybe even in another life.

The good news is that little darling Kate is doing well and the prognosis for curing her cancer of the blood is very good. It’s going to take years though–two years of chemotherapy, plus years more of tough stuff including procedures and tests. It’s going to be tough on her and her siblings as well as her parents and, yes, all of the extended family and many, many friends.

Let’s all send best wishes, good karma and great love to beautiful little Kate and her family.

Grateful Action

August 23, 2019 by  
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Okay here is a $64,000 dollar question: Should you and I choose to be mindful of what we have and be grateful most of the time, reaping the benefits from that attitude along the way, or should we whine and complain and be ungrateful and end up unhappy and miserable?

Ok, I know that’s not too tough a question but isn’t it funny that, regardless of how obvious the answer is, we so often fall into an ungrateful mode in our daily life? Shouldn’t we do something about that? And if so, what would that be?

Well, maybe we can just practice it more often, being mindful of our attitude so that we can stop the complaining when we realize what we are doing. If we can become more aware of our attitude, we would surely see a difference in our lives and our relationship with the people around us.

As I look out at the world, especially in the incredible times we live in right now with all the turmoil, uprising, pointless deaths, instability and chaos in so many places in the world, and then look outside my door, it’s hard not to be a little shocked by how different my life is here in an affluent, developed country. When I see these things, I am struck big time with the thought that, wow, we really do have it good, those of us living in the USA, Canada, Europe, etc. But how often, and seriously, do we consider how blessed we are?

But we just can’t think about it. Agreeing that the more grateful is a good idea is not quite enough, is it? We need to act. We need to make it important in our lives. I have to tell you, when I take time to be grateful, that very process and feeling of gratitude boosts my satisfaction, contentment, and happiness levels! It’s almost like magic.

So why not start now? You could write or call someone or post something on your favorite social network site. Just put something out there, saying that you are grateful and want never to forget it. Then keep that in your mind as you go through the day and you are sure to start reaping the benefits almost immediately.

Appreciating what we have is good for our spirits, our attitude, our family, our outlook on life, and, by extension, the world out there that is working through the chaos and pressure of broad and often, unstoppable, change. It’s the least we can do for them, and for ourselves.

 

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!

 

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