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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.

Pleasure and Production

December 7, 2018 by  
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Last week we talked about Authentic Happiness which is both a concept and the title of the great book written by Martin Seligman. In the book, the author continuously emphasizes how much of our happiness comes from inside our heads.

Most of us humans look at rich and famous people and think that they must be very, very happy and content because of all their fame and wealth. Well, guess what… if you look closely, you will find that many of these people are not particularly happy. I think a big reason is that most people think that once they attain great wealth and/or fame then it will automatically make them happy. Only it doesn’t. Then these folks, finding that their brains are not filled with great thoughts of happiness and contentment, start to wonder why. That doubt causes an internal dialog to start up which can work against them, quickly driving them and their mindset downhill. Also, money and fame don’t hold a candle to the kind of true and deep happiness we get from things like the love we give and receive from family and friends.

Although most of us are not rich and famous, we may still find ourselves falling into similar thought patterns. It is so very easy to let our internal self-talk persuade us that things are not going well which brings us down mentally.

There are lots of methods for overcoming this negative self-talk but one very big one is also a powerful antidote for depression – productive gratification. Striving for gratification is automatic but the way to use it so that it overcomes negativity and depression is through producing something truly meaningful to us and/or to others. What we accomplish when we produce meaningful things sends a powerful, purposeful message to our brains and makes us feel so very satisfied and happy.

Martin makes the very good point that “pleasure is a very powerful source of motivation but it does not produce change.” It also does not produce lasting authentic happiness. A simple example is the difference between the pleasure that we receive from watching a very entertaining television show versus the gratification, genuine happiness, and personal satisfaction that we receive from reading a particularly inspiring or informative book. Think back on how you felt after experiencing these two different activities yourself. The difference in how your attitude and your state of mind will probably be quite apparent.

The author suggests that if we really want true, deep and authentic happiness we should all create a list of activities, goals, and deep desires that produce for us, personally, a sense of gratification. Look for goals and things that you do that seem to make time stop and even has you thinking, “I don’t want this to ever end.”

Yes, it’s true that many pleasures take little or no effort to acquire and that the best kind of gratification takes a lot of work. But so be it. It is so well worth it, and I do think and hope you would agree!

 

Getting Back Those Sweet Dreams with P.A.s

April 18, 2014 by  
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So how well do you sleep at night these days?  Remember when you were a teenager—no problem sleeping then! You’d usually crash out as soon as your head hit the pillow. There was no waking  up in the middle of the night for unknown reasons, no worries keeping your brain from turning off, no waking up for a trip to the bathroom which also woke your worried mind. There was just deep wonderful uninterrupted sleep!  Boy, those were the days!

99% of my readers are definitely not teenagers so it’s likely that, like me, you have experienced many nights of restless sleep—lots of tossing and  turning and waking up worrying about some problem or unknown outcome. The good news is that you are not alone and there are things you can do to help reduce these disruptive moments.

When I wake up in the middle of the night my mind can so quickly go into a highly negative mode and I just lay there being a big time worry wart.  I have discovered that most of us humans, especially  as we age, have brains that seem to automatically lower our natural  mental defenses and logical mature thinking to a very weak state when we  are tired, hence the worried state of mind. To get  back to sleep one can try some of the old methods such as counting sheep but a much better method is to first work on changing that worried mental state. Once the worry is reduced, sleep will come much more readily. But how do you do that?

It’s actually quite simple. Turn the chatter filled with fear filled questions and negative thoughts into inner talk that is filled with positive, supportive statements. Use your P.A.s! PA’s (positive affirmations) can be repeated in your mind the same way those worries and doubts are being echoed over and over. Keeping your positive thoughts generalized and not at all focused on the situation that is worrying you will keep you from taking a “but what if?” detour. So you put aside thoughts of the things that are worrying you and say something like, “I feel relaxed and very, very sleepy,” over and over in your mind. Don’t let anything else creep back in. Repeat the PA and imagine how it feels to be that relaxed and sleep and pretty soon you will actually feel that way, your mind will agree that this is true and you’ll quickly be back in sleep mode. Try it.  It’s amazingly simple and effective!

There is more you can put into your arsenal to insure a good night’s sleep and a relaxed well-rested state of mind. We will go into another very effective method next week but in the meantime, sweet dreams!

The Powerful Link Between PA’s and Goal Setting

February 10, 2012 by  
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All this talk of positive affirmations (PA’s) got me thinking about the critical and close connections between PA’s and goal setting. Is there a serious connection between the two?? Absolutely!

PA’s really are the basics of goal setting. A goal is obviously something you’ve thought about and decided it’s important enough to act on. If you’re smart you will have written it down. If you’re really smart you will have also put a deadline on it. By doing this you’ve feed a message to your mind and reinforced it by making a visual note on paper and, yes, your subconscious, which has just been sitting there waiting for directions, is now being told what to do and what to believe.

So no matter what the goal is that you’ve stored in your mind and put on paper, the ever vigilant and very smart subconscious says “Ok … that’s what you want to do so we’ll do it!” Remember it doesn’t matter whether it’s positive or negative –your subconscious doesn’t care. It will get to work on it as soon as you plant the seed and keep working on it even while you sleep or think about something else. That sneaky inner brain obeys and thinks “I’ll keep at this until you call me off or change your mind and goals.”

Of course, if you feed it negative stuff or if you don’t keep practicing positive PA’s the subconscious (SubCon) will be just as content to let the negative PA’s dominate — remember it just doesn’t care–it’s job is to do what you tell it to do without question. That is pretty powerful stuff.

The Power of Positive Language

October 21, 2011 by  
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I’ve been thinking about my negative self-talk blog from last week and I figured we probably have more negative thoughts than we imagine so I did a bit of light research on it and, yep, there are a lot of ways negativity can seep into our thoughts.

The thing is, we constantly have this internal chatter where we comment on and determine how we interpret our circumstances. And a lot of us have this set of both conscious thoughts and less conscious assumptions and beliefs that lean to the negative side so that this internal chatter ends up being critical and, ultimately, demoralizing. And it’s very hard to get away from, unless you’re mindful of it:

  • Next time you find you’re being critical of yourself, stop and find alternatives to “I’m an idiot!” or “I’m getting so fat!” such as “Next time, I’ll pay more attention and I’ll ace this!” or “I know I can eat better and I’m going to do that starting now!” This will stop you from what is called “Self-limiting talk” when the negative comments make you feel defeated and so you don’t bother looking for answers. Never accept defeat!
  • Don’t jump to conclusions. “He must have thought I was a fool the way I keep blathering on!” or “I’ve never done this before. I’m going to fail terribly.” are your interpretations of situations but aren’t the actual truth. However, we make these statements facts in our mind by using this negative self-talk. Look at exactly what happened or will likely happen and keep your thoughts on the positive aspects of a situation.
  • Stop using negativity when talking to others. What you say aloud becomes common chatter internally. When someone says you look good, don’t brush it off with an “Ugh! I feel like a whale today.” Instead say “Thank you. That’s sweet of you to say.” Or if you are used to saying “I’m just not good at that.” try saying “Someday I’m going to figure out how to do that!”

It’s those small but significant changes in our language both in our heads and when talking to others that a battle with too much negativity is fought and won. Just be mindful of what you say and what you think and turn negative commentary into positive, empowering statements!