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Beautiful Mindfulness

July 11, 2021 by  
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Recently, I re-read Pema Chödrön’s great book, Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change. It got me thinking again about the human mind and how our thinking can be super helpful or just terrible for us.

It’s so very, very important that we try to “live in the now” as much as we can. It’s not easy but we do need to keep working at it because it really can lift our life and happiness.

In last week’s blog, I talked about meditation and how important and helpful it can be for our lives. Pema says in Living Beautifully that, “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.”

I totally agree with her.

She goes on to say 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 with 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 or asleep, conscious or distracted.”

Later she says, in reference to creating a comfortable life that this, “means setting up your life so that you have time for meditation and self-reflection, for kindhearted, compassionate self-honesty”. Those things and thoughts are so very important to our happiness. We all need to put a lot of effort into really living in the present moment. Doing that can lift our mood and our life tremendously.

To help me with this, I’ve made a list of what I call My 10 Natural Mood Boosters:

1. Get into a routine

2. Set goals

3. Exercise

4. Eat healthy

5. Get enough sleep

6. Take on responsibilities

7. Challenge negative thoughts

8. Take good supplements

9. Do something new

10. Try to have fun

I’d like to add one extra thing that has always worked for me when I am feeling down. It’s so simple — just go outside and take a walk to anywhere, although a place that’s new for you is best. And yes, it’s very important to live in the now as much as you can—you will be glad and much happier if you do this as often as possible!

Lift Your Life — Focus on the Present

July 4, 2021 by  
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One of the best ways to increase happiness in your life, and therefore maintain and lift your passion, is to stay in the present.

This can be challenging for most of us, if not all of us, when things are stressful. Most of the time we are worried about the past or the future and not really paying attention to what is happening right now, so we miss life as it is happening. That can make it tough to live passionately in that “right now” time and place.

Living this way takes practice. You have to train your brain to live in the moment. It’s something I’ve worked to achieve all my life. It is easier now than when I started, but it still takes a concerted effort. It is, however, more than worth it.

As you learn how to redirect your thoughts and focus on the present, it’s important not to be hard on yourself. (Take a look at my previous blog where I talk about good ole USA—not the country but “Unconditional Self-Acceptance”!) Just keep working at it and when you get cut off, when your mind wanders, take the time to steer your thoughts and yourself back to the present.

Yoga and/or meditation are ways that we all can practice keeping our focus on the present moment, making us happier and more content. Yoga and meditation are way underrated in this country. They can be such great tools and you don’t need to go to a gym or studio to do either.

For instance, you can do yoga at home with tools such as the Yoga for Beginners with Patricia Walden DVD or through videos found on websites such as Yoga with Adriene. There are also many websites designed to help coach you and I on the best ways to meditate, such as Mindful.org. Even just 10 minutes a day on either of these can make an enormous difference in your life.

Keep practicing and you will lift your life and get better at it the more you do it. You’ll be amazed at how much spending even just 10 minutes a day focusing on the present can increase your life and happiness factor. It’s the real deal!

Meditation and the Quiet Mind

April 4, 2021 by  
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Myself and the Dalai Lama

Meditation. Hmm. That’s something that I haven’t done a ton of, but recently I read a great book about the mind and how you can calm it down and make it quiet. It’s making me think about it more seriously.

When I do meditate, it raises my mood and helps my brain, which helps my life a ton. I’m writing this week’s post, in part, because I know I should meditate more. I’ve found, over the years, that almost anytime I write about something we humans should be doing, my own writings on the subject motivate me to just go and do it. So, I guess I’m being somewhat selfish. But if my experience and words are helpful to others, then that’s great!

I’ve sure noticed that the older I get, the more I want to help others. Okay, part of that is because when I help others, I get such a good feeling from it that I want to do it more. Oops. I guess that’s being a bit selfish too. But maybe that is a good kind of selfishness. And that means everybody can be a winner!

I just read a great book called Quiet Mind, compiled and edited by Susan Piver. In this section written by Tulku Thondup, it says, “Through meditation we can realize the awareness of the peaceful and joyful nature of our mind. From there we can interact with mental objects with greater peace and ease on our own terms, from a position of mental strength.” He goes on to say that “in order to find and employ the healing power of our mind and the healing qualities of mental objects, we must consistently and repeatedly meditate on the four healing powers: positive images, positive words, positive feeling, and positive belief.”

Thondup goes on to say, “Like food, exercise, rest, and medicine, meditation is a very important component of healing and keeping healthy.” His advice is to start easy and slow, but be consistent. Even just 5 minutes a day at first is a good start. Then later, he advises, “Early morning is generally the best time to meditate, as your mind could still be in peace and your energy still calm. The best place is a solitary place. Whatever you pick, you should choose the best time and place that you can afford and feel good about.” Then, after enough 5 minutes sessions, he says you should try to meditate for about an hour.

Earlier in the book, another contributor, Sakyong Mipham said, “Decide on a regular time to practice each day and try to stick with it. A ten-minute period in the morning is a good place to begin.” Mipham also suggests that consistency is key.

I really like some of the other simple advice Mipham gives: “If you’re agitated, a slow walk might be in order. If you’re drowsy, a cool shower before beginning the session might help.” He also notes that “It can be inspiring to read a little about meditation first as a reminder of why you’re practicing.”

So, I have a lot of great thoughts about meditating now. As I said, I may not have done it very regularly, but it’s not new to me. As a matter of fact, I had the great privilege to meet, greet, and introduce the Dalai Lama at an event years ago. Through our conversations that day, I got to know him a bit, and he certainly knows and practices meditation. I’m sure he knows quite well how much it can help anyone’s life. We just need little reminders to do it sometimes.

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.

17 Proven Ways to Boost Your Energy Levels

December 1, 2019 by  
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If you have high energy levels, life is so much more enjoyable and, of course, you can get a ton of stuff done. I’m not just talking about work stuff either. With high energy levels there’s tons of fun things and experiences that you can enjoy. As we age, our energy levels begin to drop, but there are many ways that you can lift or boost your energy and that makes life so much more fun and interesting.

Whether it’s for work or play, family or friends, whether you’re young or old, we could all use a little bit more energy. So here is a list of proven ways to boost your energy levels.

  1. Set big and exciting goals to put your BIG dreams into action. Be sure to make a list of those big dreams and to put a time frame on those goals.
  2. Take a good look at your list of goals, either the night before or the morning of, so you wake ready and focused which will give you with lots of energy that day.
  3. Eat more nutritious foods — lots of fruits and vegetables.
  4. Drink green tea to help overcome that mid-morning slump.
  5. Get plenty of exposure to natural light.
  6. Ease your stress by simplifying your life and mainly, or exclusively, pursue your life’s priority items.
  7. Heal yourself by being more grateful as well as loving more and letting go of all anger.
  8. Thinking good thoughts and increasing your positive self-talk can stimulate good neurotransmitters called endorphins.
  9. Play and exercise daily as that releases more endorphins and dopamine, which will boost your mental and physical energy.
  10. Keep moving, even if it’s just walking. My fit bit was a fantastic gift. It got me walking at least 5.000 steps a day at first then I began getting 10,000 steps a day and now I consistently get 20,000 steps in a day. That is about 10 miles, but I break up those steps during the day and it doesn’t seem like 10 miles. it always surprises me that doing all that walking gives me even more energy.) My all-time best steps in one day was 40,111. Not bad for 75-year-old dude!
  11. Get lots of sleep, but not too much, and take a nap when needed.
  12. Take time for a few minutes of yoga stretching and a bit of meditation for a morning boost.
  13. Listen to your favorite music. For some people it may be music with a heart pounding beat. To others it may be inspirational symphonic music.
  14. Socialize with energetic friends and family.
  15. Go visit new and different places such as new states, cities, or countries, but it also works to just drive or walk through a different neighborhood.
  16. Drink lots of water. Dehydration drains energy.
  17. Talk to yourself using positive affirmations. Some of my favorites are:
    • I am strong and worthy.
    • I’m upbeat and positive
    • I have lots of stamina and energy. (I use that one a lot before and during my tennis matches.)

Okay, and here is one last one that may seem strange, but it works. Take huge breaths, exhaling slowly and do a it many times. I do it 100 times without stopping, which takes only about 10 minutes and the reward is a very calm and energy filled mind and body. It also works to help you go to sleep at night which helps with item number 11.

This and all the above will give you lots of energy throughout your day!

 

 

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.

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.

Life Changing Mornings

August 24, 2018 by  
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I just finished reading a great little book that my wife gave me titled, The Miracle Morning: The Not-so-Obvious Secret to Transform Your Life Before 8 A.M. In this very uplifting and motivating book, the author, Hal Elrod tells of how his life was dramatically lifted by setting an early morning schedule and routine. This was very difficult for him at first since he was defiantly not an early morning person, but as he says, “committing to my personal development in the morning … would give me a positive motivation to kick start my day.”

On that first morning he pulled out a list of what he considered life changing development activities that he had learned over the years but had not put into practice. “One by one, I implemented each one,” he writes. He had decided to use one hour each morning and spend 10 minutes for each item on his list.

Here are the 6 items that Hal thought were the most impactful for his life:

  • Silence – as in meditation where he would concentrate on his breathing for 10 minutes.
  • Reading – he grabbed the book Think and Grow Rich. (He had started reading it many times but never finished the book.)
  • Affirmations – he wrote down his list of self-affirmations including the things he wanted to become and what he was going to do to change his life.
  • Visualization – he created this after watching the movie The Secret (I have to watch that movie myself.)
  • Journaling – he had a journal but had not written in it for a long time, yet he found after writing a few things he was grateful for the way exercises her that motion creates emotion so drop down and did push-ups and insist for those 2 minutes of stopping by getting up one hour earlier as you normally do than you normally do and going through a routine it lifted his spirits.
  • Exercise – he had heard that “motion creates emotion” so he dropped down and did push-ups then sit-ups for those 10 minutes without stopping.

By getting up one hour earlier than you normally do and going through a routine, spending just 10 minutes on each item you set for yourself, you can change and enhance your life the way Hal Elrod has done. And Hal had some pretty huge setbacks when he was a young man. At age 20 he was hit head on by a drunk driver and was dead for 6 minutes. He suffered brain damage, 11 broken bones and was told that he would never walk again. He didn’t believe what he was being told and went on to defy the doctors, eventually running ultra-marathons, becoming a Hall of Fame Business achiever, and even recording as a hip-hop artist.

If someone like that created and is using the “Miracle Morning” technique, you know that the method is certain to create success. It did work for him and I think it can work for anyone who is willing to set up the schedule and go after what is important to them.

Ok, here’s a good way to start that will give you a little more direction and additional motivation to get out there and improve your life – go by Hal’s book! You won’t be sorry. https://www.amazon.com/Miracle-Morning-Not-So-Obvious-Guaranteed-Transform/dp/0979019710

The Great Life List

April 27, 2018 by  
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Wow, what a week I had. I had the hell scared out of me when the doctor told me I had liver cancer! Not a fun beginning of the week, to say the least. But, after a super intense week of blood tests, several scans, and having a camera look around at my insides, the doctors concluded that, in fact, I didn’t have a diseased liver! Yay team! But yeah, wow, what a huge mental change and difference that made in my brain.

Yes, I know, I am 74 years old now and I won’t live forever, but this big-time scare has motivated me to use what time I do have to its best use. Not just for me, but for my family, friends, and even strangers. I think I’ve been giving back but I know there is so much more that can be done.

All of us humans get the same 168 hours a week, but the key to success in helping yourself and others is in how we choose to spend those hours. I know I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating: To make sure you get more done each day, set goals and be sure to write them down. I hope you are doing this. It is not enough just to set goals. If you are like me – and I think most people are – when you write an objective, task, or goal down, your brain pushes you harder to make sure you complete that task!

My recent big-time scare has motivated me to make a list of what I learned from it. What is really important in this very short life is to raise our spirits, happiness levels, and contentment with life and living.

Here’s what I came up with.

  1. Mental and physical pain can be a great life teacher.
  2. Place the highest value on LOVE.
  3. “There is more to life than increasing it’s speed.” – Mahatma Gandhi
  4. The biggest most challenging things can be the more rewarding.
  5. Slow yourself down and bask more in the pleasure of living.
  6. Pause and take time to appreciate the right now moment.
  7. Meditate, even for just 10 minutes a day.
  8. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt
  9. Go ahead and fake confidence even when you are not confident.
  10. Lift your happiness and relaxation levels by getting organized.
  11. Get outside daily and study and observe the sky, the clouds, and your surroundings.
  12. Exercise daily even by just walking or strolling; maybe hike or jog in new places.
  13. Surround yourself with diverse people and spend more time with family and friends.
  14. Take time to document a special trip or occasion with photos and even write a short story about it.

I do hope that this list will help you as much as it has helped me. I find that by thinking about these kinds

of things and then writing it all down cements it more deeply in my mind. I am going to push myself to

revisit the list from time to time. I hope you will revisit this, or your own similar list, on a regular basis as well.

 

 

 

Notes from THE WILLPOWER INSTINCT

February 28, 2014 by  
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Ok … this week I will give you what I think are some of the high points from Kelly McGonigal incredible book, The Willpower Instinct. These are more of those notes taken from my summary sheets that I make and keep from the best books I read and want to revisit and remember.

The Willpower Instinct is a truly life changing book if you put the concepts and findings into practice.  I highly recommend you get it and read it carefully.  Below are the points that jumped out at me. In some cases I am giving you quotes and in others I am giving a summary in my own words.  The subtitle of the book is great: “How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More”. The book covers all this and more.

Mark’s notes from The Willpower Instinct:

P. 20 Most of our choices are made on autopilot.

P. 20 Self-awareness is one big key to will power.

P. 21 When you are distracted, your impulses usually over rule your long term goals.

P. 21 To have more self-control, develop more self-awareness.

P. 23 The brain is remarkably responsive to experience.

P. 24 Ask your brain to _____________________________ (you fill in anything you really want) and your brain ends up helping you do it.

P. 26 Meditate on a regular basis — it will help you increase self-control. For example: lose weight, kick bad habits, etc. Meditate 5 minutes a day can make a huge difference.

P. 42, 43 Exercise is like meditation it makes the brain bigger and faster and improves willpower.

P. 43 A big mood booster is a simple 5 minute walk outside.

P. 45 Exercise gives you more energy than you spend.

P. 69 If you are looking for a big change of any habit, look for small ways to practice self-control.

P. 129 When we free ourselves from the false promise of reward we often find the thing we were seeking happiness from was the main source of our misery.

P. 132 We must distinguish between wanting and happiness.

P. 144 Many studies show that self-criticism gives less motivation and worse self-control and is the biggest predictor of depression.

So, without even reading the book, you can see the value of the information just in these notes. And how easy is it to review and remind oneself of this great information this way?

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