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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.

 

Money and Meditation

August 8, 2019 by  
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If you have been reading my blog for years, then you know that I started out mainly writing about money, money, money. I wrote about how to make it and how to invest it for the best returns. Over time, I have expanded my subjects to include physical and mental health because, as we all know, without good health, tons of money may not help you at all, or at least not much.

Our brains control our physical bodies much more than most people realize. Years ago, I found an explanation of why the brain can control so much of our lives in Time magazine. A professor at the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson, who Time magazine had honored as one of the “100 People Who Shape Our World”, was actually asked by the Dalai Lama to study the connection between the meditative state of mind of his Buddhist monks and their emotional and mental health.

Davidson first hooked 128 electrodes to the head of a French-born monk, Mathieu Ricard, and recorded an immediate increase in the gamma activity when the monk began to meditate. Later studies with a control group of students only lightly trained in meditation showed the monks produced gamma waves that were 30 times stronger than a control group. Wow, that is HUGE!

But what does all this mean? Simply put, this and other research unveils the real possibility that the brain, like the rest of the body, can be altered intentionally. Just as we build muscle through exercise, we can also build our mental capacities that can lead to better brain function and an increase in essential cognitive functions, including memory and perception. This all creates a more positive mental state–and that’s what in turn creates more productive gamma brain waves.

This discovery tells me that as I do more meditation, I will gain a better functioning brain which could help me be a much better investor. I do believe that by pumping my brain up through meditation, I can make better real estate deals and manage my money much better. How about you? Go ahead and try some meditation and see what it does to your brain.

One last comment. Or, I should say that I’m going to do a little bragging.  I’ve always been impressed by the Dalai Lama and many years ago I had the great privilege of escorting the Dalai Lama from his hotel room to a huge ball room and then I introduced him to the audience. I will never forget the great feeling and gratitude I received from doing that introduction and getting to know him even just a little bit.

Fully Present Wakefulness

August 2, 2019 by  
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So, what can we do to make our lives happy and contented as we age, like when you are over 55, 65 or, like me, at 75? So much of our lives depend on our thinking and it can be a bit of a challenge to put and keep the positive thoughts our minds.

I came across an interview I did years ago with the world-famous skier Stein Eriksen. He had so much passion in his life even up to shortly before he died. In the interview, I asked Stein if he had as much passion in the process of becoming a world champion as he did when he won the gold medal. And he said he absolutely did, that he both enjoyed and was totally passionate about his workouts, and his many, many practice runs down the snowy slops of Norway and Utah. He built in his mind what he was going to do each day and he almost always did it, even in his mid to late 80’s.

That passion and determination most always starts with our brain and what we are thinking. I read a cute comment recently: “Don’t believe everything you think.” It is so easy, especially as you age and know that your time on this planet earth is so much shorter than when you were 25 or 30 or even 50 or 60, to let go of that passion. Our “self-talk” can really lead us down the wrong path.

So, one big thing, or big THINK, we need to do as we get closer to the end, is to be very mindful of the little negative self-talk that goes on in our brains. Then we need to work on changing that little voice in our head to do some major positive self-talk. If you meditate even for just 10 or 12 minutes a day this can help with changing your negative self-talk to positive self-talk.

Quoting from Pema Chödrön’s book Living Beautifully, “The key practice to support us in this mindfulness is 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. Essentially, mindfulness means wakefulness–fully present wakefulness. Chogyam Trungpa called it ‘paying attention to all the details of your life.’”

As we get older, it’s even more important to live in the right now moment and, of course, that takes a lot of positive self-talk. Pema also wrote that, “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. Just as with the other aspects of this commitment, we’re either present when putting on our sweater or tying our shoes or brushing our teeth, or we’re not. We’re either awake, asleep, conscious, or distracted. Chogyam Trangpa emphasized mindfulness and paying attention to the details of our lives as ways to develop appreciation for ourselves and our world, ways to free ourselves from suffering.”

Additionally, Pema wrote, “You build inner strength through embracing the totality of your experience, both the delightful parts and the difficult parts. Embracing the totality of your experience is one definition of having loving kindness for yourself.”

This type of thinking and action certainly has made me more productive and keeps my mind busy. That along with setting a schedule and coming up with some new goals that fit my age and stage has been quite wonderful. At first it seemed quite silly for me to pay total attention to getting dress or taking a shower, but I have found it to be a good, and important, experience.

Just Believe

July 19, 2019 by  
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To live a very long life is a very good thing, at least if you truly enjoy the years along the way. Time is such an interesting thing and it goes on and on, whether you and I are alive or not. I find it very interesting that the older I get the faster time seems to fly by. I’ll never forget when I was 15, counting down the days and months, wanting them to go faster so I could get my driver’s license. Do you remember those slow years when you were a kid, maybe waiting to get your license or counting down the days till Christmas?

In addition to filling our lives as much as we can with good stuff, we should also try to increase our lifespans. And there are ways to do that. Years ago, I read a book by an anthropologist, entitled How to Live to Be 100. In the book the author reported a study of the people who live in the southern Soviet Union the area of Georgia. These people have an average lifespan of over 100 years. How do they do it? The author pointed out that the Georgians diet is somewhat different than ours, but not radically different from other people who don’t live so long. Their level of activity is also not particularly unique. In the end the author concluded that these people lived long healthy lives because they expected to live long healthy lives!

But it doesn’t work just to think or hope you’ll have a long life –you have to expect it and really believe that it will happen. Personally, I would suspect that, with that kind of thinking, but in their they really did watch what they ate and spent their time wisely doing things that didn’t harm their bodies. The other thing that helped extend their lives was the way society there treated older people – with more respect and honor.

No matter how long we expect to live, we should plan to do as much with our time as we can. It is said that time is money, and indeed it is. With extra time you can make extra money. Time is also happiness, if it is well used. Time is also joy and contentment, peace and pleasure and love, but only if we use it wisely.

Many years ago, I drove through East Chicago Heights in Illinois, which is not the most desirable urban area. I was absolutely stunned to see the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who lined the street that warm summer night, doing nothing but just standing there. I learned later that this was a normal practice there. When we do nothing, however, we receive nothing in return.

I’m not suggesting that we not take time out to enjoy ourselves. Enjoyment and recreation are rewards we can give ourselves after we’ve worked hard and done a good job. The law of life says that hard work and struggle must precede the joy and fulfillment of accomplishment. And without that there is not a true enjoyment of life. When we are productive, it almost always lifts our spirits and contentment factor.

Okay, so I am going to work on my own brain, and I do plan on living a very, very long life. 100 years old doesn’t sound like that big of a number now, because I’m 75% of the way there already. How about you? Are you going to set a big number goal and really go after it? If you do, the one big thing you’ll have to then is to just really believe that you’re going to do it.

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.

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.

Little Notes for Big Changes

April 26, 2019 by  
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I was looking through old books I’ve read that have made a big difference in my life and I came across Susan Jeffers‘ book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. I have quoted Susan before, since she has so many great ideas, helpful hints, and “techniques for turning fear, indecision, and anger into power, action, and love.” And, yes, that is a direct quote from the cover of her great little book.

As I glanced through the pages and re-read my little notes I took back then, the of advice from the book really struck me again and lifted my thoughts and view of life to a higher level. Below are some of my notes from the margins in the book. When I quickly went over the list, I found it very inspiring and I thought that I really should look at this list often. I also thought that sharing the list here might lift your life too, even if it’s just a little lift.

–Do self-talk and make notes at night to program my mind for the next day.

–In the morning, I’m going to wake up happy, upbeat, positive, and energetic.

–Call friends and others and set up lunch meetings. Start with my circle of close friends.

–Whatever the challenge is, say to myself, “I can do it.”

–Surround myself with strong and positive people.

–Use this great tool: act as if you really count.

–Challenge myself to stay on the path of the higher self.

–What’s the rush? Don’t rush – it’s all happening perfectly.

–Don’t punish myself. Be patient with others and especially myself.

–Turn some of my big challenges over to my subconscious.

–Never forget that it takes a lot of practice and vigilance to direct and control my negative chatterbox.

–Instruct my higher self to work to solve problems and challenges as I sleep.

–Never forget the real key to success is ACTION.

–Keep working on being more proactive. Call friends for lunch, dinner, to play cards, play tennis, play pool, travel, and to interview for one of my future blogs.

–Keep pounding into my brain Susan’s great message: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway!

And here are 6 more of my notes from the margins of Henriette Anne Klauser’s book Write it Down and Make It Happen.

–Write down a list of my intentions, every day.

–Life is a decision; when you believe in a dream you need to take the risk and just do it.

–Writing things down can make feelings become just speed bumps, not roadblocks.

–Write down you biggest fears and then take action to counteract the fear.

–In addition to writing down your intentions and affirmations, speak them out loud to yourself.

–And lastly, never forget that writing things down activates that reticular activating system in your brain, then your brain works overtime for you.

 

When You’re Not Brave

March 1, 2019 by  
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This week I want to continue on this big thing we all know and have experienced called fear. Let me start by asking, what do we know about these fears?

Well, first remember that fear is a natural emotion, one that must be understood, confronted, and controlled. So maybe when you have great fears for whatever reasons, this would be an appropriate time and place to “fake it till you make it”. Some people who know me are surprised to learn that I have been very fearful many times but have gone ahead and done the “fake it” thing.  Maybe we ought to whistle a happy tune and no one will suspect you and I are afraid. If we pretend to be brave, acting the way a brave person would act, the results can be amazing.

Consider the many times you have lain in bed thinking about some tough assignment, something that you are slightly or very fearful of doing. If you’ve never done it before, quite naturally you are reluctant and anxious. For example, if you are giving a speech for the first time to some very important people, or asking a banker for a huge loan, or presenting an offer to buy a particular property for a ridiculously low price. Or it may be visiting a new state, city, or country, or being a master of ceremonies. If you are normal you become very fearful with these new situations.

Whatever you have to do on that particular day as you lie in bed, if you have a few fears of doing it, they will only intensify the longer you lie there and think about it. What will overcome those frightening thoughts and imaginings is action. Even if it is incorrect action, get up, get going, and get the blood running and the brain thinking. Take a shower, get on the phone, write a few text messages and emails, go see people, or set up a lunch appointment. Make things happen!

Action overcomes fear because most fears are in your mind and action lets the physical part of you dominate for a while. The physical side of you needs to dominate because the mental side of you, in many cases, has become too introspective and too analytical. We tend to analyze so many things to death. We have all heard of “analysis paralysis,” which is more than two cute rhyming words.

Sometimes we think too much. In today’s educated, deep thinking and analyzing world, it sure seems that we have a lot more planners and thinkers and analyzers than we do action people. Obviously, we do need some kind of plan, but the greatest plan in the world is worthless without action. I would much rather have a mediocre plan and some real action people to carry it out than the most phenomenal plan in the world with a bunch of inactive and do-nothing people.

Action really is the critical key to huge success and accomplishment. I have never met a person in my life who has total confidence in themselves and doesn’t experience fear from time to time. There is not one of us human beings on this planet who won’t have some serious questions about their own ability to succeed in every new venture they start. We all need to remember that and as the great title of Susan Jeffers book says, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”!

My Words Out Loud

January 11, 2019 by  
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I have something very special for you today. Please take a listen to this pod cast I was on recently. There are a few things I share on it that I think can be very helpful to most people. I hope you like it and, if so, please share with others. Thank you so much for taking time to listen. This kind of thing is part of what I am doing to really try to be of help to others. Maybe it’s my age but I am all about sharing and helping these days!

 

The interviewer is Michelle Brown, a fellow Salt Lake City resident who teaches Life Story writing workshops. Get a nice warm beverage and sit back for a really interesting conversation. I hope you find it helpful and motivating!

 

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