Savoring the Experience…It’s All We Have

Early Spring/Summer mornings are my favorite because the night before, I like to open the window and sleep with great excitement for the morning when I can wake up to a fresh cool breeze, the sound of the fountain, and birds chirping. There’s something about that moment that pulls me into presence. I get out of my busy mind of “what do I need to get done today?” and into “aaaah, I LOVE this feeling…right now.” I feel a wave of peace roll over me where nothing matters but what is right in front of me: everything I have is everything I need. I need nothing more.

I took advantage of the time (6:30am on a Sunday) and went to the kitchen to make coffee. As I sit here on the patio sipping my coffee and writing this, I see geese flying over my home, an airplane, two mourning doves, a crow, and my pug staring at me with adoring eyes (or so I’d like to believe). It’s so quiet. I LOVE this feeling. Soon my children will wake up and the day will be filled with a different energy. The boys will play, and they will fight. There will be arguments about what’s for breakfast and how we will spend our day. Someone is going to get hurt and at some point we will all hug each other and make up. I will be exhausted for a majority of the time, but I LOVE this feeling. I am grateful for my children and for the incredible responsibility for being a parent.

And yet, every moment that I LOVE comes and goes. The sun is rising and people are starting to wake up and take their dogs out for walks. That moment I cherished- my joy- is now gone… but only in the form that I was experiencing. Joy is never ending. It will come again. This is life. It shows up in nearly everything we do: from eating a delicious meal to being in love in a relationship.

Love isn’t something we “get to keep.” It is simply an experience. Love is unconditional and within reach every day, all day. There is never a lack of love. Sometimes we think we lose love when we break up with someone we loved. But love is still there. It is within us always. We just got so used to feeling it in one form (the presence of another being) that we forgot about our very essence, which is love.

Just like everything in this world, from my morning calm, to a hot coffee, to parenting young boys, to being in a relationship, nothing lasts forever. Everything comes in and out of our lives. People. Things. Everything.

If we step into a relationship thinking, “Yay! I finally got what I wanted! Now I can finally be happy forever!” we will be extremely disappointed when that changes. The form of the relationship will change. Our feelings and others’ feelings will change. Relationships change. My sweet little boys that adore me will grow into teenagers and give me attitude…maybe…hopefully not!

And when things do inevitably change, we will become upset. We will think, “but this isn’t what I wanted. I need it to go back to the way I wanted it…the way it was.” Yes, wouldn’t that be nice… We will be disappointed time and time again as we hold onto our attachment to what was.

“Well, what’s wrong with that?” you might ask. There’s nothing wrong with wanting things to go back to the way things used to be. This is exactly the feeling that brings us to an important turning point- the point where we either suffer from our loss or thrive. That point is a choice. We can choose to cultivate resentment, bitterness, and anger toward the loss of what we wanted, or we can cultivate gratitude for the experience that brought us so much joy.

If we are to choose the former, we will miss out on the experience of knowing and feeling what it means to actually “love” unconditionally. And if love comes with conditions, it isn’t love. To experience love, we feel joy. To reject joy at the fear of losing love, is to hold love with conditions: “I will only love if I am guaranteed it will never change and never leave me.” That’s not love, it’s business. We forget that love is not an exchange, it is an experience. A “being”.

If we were to be honest with ourselves, we would all admit that even toward those that we claim to love, we are sometimes not very loving. We say or do things that are not loving at all. To experience love in its fullness, we are constantly brought to a moment in which we get to choose to be loving or not. Similarly, the people around us are constantly choosing, in every moment, if they want to be loving or not.

I have met many people who, when they don’t feel that their partner is being very loving at the moment, they jump in and out of other relationships because they believed that the only way to experience love is to feel loved by another. They go into relationship after relationship just to “fill” their emptiness… never really getting to know what it feels like to love.

It reminds me of a constant hunger that is never satisfied. Some people eat just to eat, and some people eat to enjoy the food. They eat to savor the flavors, aromas, and textures. They know the precious value that went into the growing of the vegetables, and seasonings, the picking of the fruits, and the labor that went into preparing the food. And with that gratitude for the experience, even a single bite is enough to feel full, satisfied, and joyful.

I think love is like that. It takes tremendous courage to love and be loved. So the more we open ourselves and become vulnerable, to share our minds and hearts and lives with another, even if it comes at the risk of losing that love sometime in the future, I still believe that it is better to love fully, than to never love at all.

And with that, the kids are up! Time to start the day!

Transformation and Healing in Relationships

pexels-photo-326625.jpegRelationships are created to assist both souls learn their lessons and balance their misdirected energy. When the lesson is learned, the karma is cleared and the contract has been fulfilled. Choosing to stay in these relationships becomes a choice. If both souls are willing to retrieve their lessons, step into a place of healing, and shift their consciousness, the relationship will evolve from one based on karma to one infused with the new energy and transformation.

Unfortunately, some souls do not always choose to evolve and heal. Some souls will choose to stay in the old energy where they will continue to recreate the same lessons over and over again, keeping them stuck in drama, trauma, and chaos. It will be very important for those of us choosing to take the high road (e.g., love) to not get caught up into other’s despair, confusion, and denial. This can be very hard to do because we care about the other person. However, we must respect their freedom to choose.

Compassionate detachment and discernment are absolutely necessary if we plan on continuing with our own personal healing and transforming our energy from hate into love. The one rule of all living things is our freedom of will, and many of us have given our freedom of will away. We must learn to say “no” when we need to, and “yes” when we feel it is for our highest good. Each of us must learn to stand in our own power and learn to discern what is a good investment of our time and energy.

Staying involved in toxic relationships will deplete us and keep us from moving forward (ultimately, it will keep the other from moving forward as well!) on our own soul’s advancement. The only person we are responsible for is our self. Everything outside ourselves is merely a reflection of the relationships we are having with our own inner being.

We teach others how to treat us by the way we treat ourselves, so when we make ourselves of equal value and stop sacrificing our energy in order to please others, we will build a sense of personal power, helping us to set up very strong boundaries. Keeping ourselves fully anchored on a love-based path by choosing not to get caught up in relationships that suck us dry and deplete our energy is not selfish; it actually serves the whole of humanity. We cannot be of service to humanity if we continue to allow others to pulls us down into the lower ego-based energies of confusion, chaos, denial, limited beliefs, addiction and drama. We need to pull ourselves out of denial and be really honest with ourselves and ask if our current relationships are based on Love or fear.

If they are based in fear, you will need to love yourself enough to disengage from anything that is disempowering and does not serve your highest good. Recognize your mistakes, bringing them into your awareness so you can transcend them. All mistakes should be immediately dealt with so the imbalanced energy will not be returned to you. The relationships here are the toxic ones where there is a split. One soul chooses to awaken and step into their empowerment, while the other soul chooses to stay in denial and refuses to change and accept responsibility for their unconscious creations. These souls will no longer be a good match, and will only create continued disharmony for each other. It will be up to you to listen to your heart when it tells you your contract with another soul is complete.

The only person who can decide this is you. You have total free will to choose which relationships serve you and which ones deplete you. If this relationship is meant to be a part of your life, give it the space it needs to heal. Release it with Love knowing that it will be returned to you if it is for your highest good. The highest way we can be of service to others is to stay in the higher vibrations of love, joy, peace, compassion, forgiveness and understanding, setting an example for others to follow.

On person holding their mastery core and radiating their energy can transmute the fear energy of hundreds of people who choose to keep themselves in limitation and fear. Set an example that others will want to follow. When we remain in the higher frequencies we lift each other up!

Each of us will need to stay in alignment with our spirit, listen to our heart, and choose not to allow other people’s unconscious behaviors, motivated by their ego, throw us out of alignment with our core. Stepping into a place of detachment, surrender, and allowance for others is absolutely necessary. They have free will and every right to choose to stay stagnant in their soul’s evolution. It will become imperative to look at everything from a bigger perspective, instead of from a human perspective and know that there is always divine order and a bigger picture in every event that occurs.

We are all on different consciousness levels with the free will to choose whether we want to move towards the higher energy of Love or stay stuck in the lower energy realms of limitation. Sometimes it takes others more time and many more lives before they will finally surrender their ego and move forward into enlightenment.

The best way to live, is to always ask yourself:
Is this relationship, activity, thought, or belief:
1) For my highest good?
2) A wise energy investment?
3) Going to enhance or deplete my light?
4) In line with my being?
5) Contracting my energy through fear or expanding my energy with love?

*Disclaimer: I found this in my diary from way back. It must be from some class I took, and I don’t remember which one it was or who it was by. Possibly Abraham Hicks?

A Prayer for World Peace

monk-hands-faith-person-45178.jpeg(This excerpt is from the book is called “Pray, Meditate, or Both?”)

A common question is, “What’s the harm in praying for world peace?” And the problem is in the idea that it’s somebody else’s responsibility to make peace happen. It begins with you. So if you want to know how close we are to world peace, look within.

Prayer and meditation are both wonderful. In-fact, reciting a prayer is a common meditation practice (like the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, for example). Where there is hatred within, train your mind to sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. Do not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; or to be loved as to love; for it’s in giving that we receive, it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it’s by letting go of the concept of a separate “self”, that we are born to eternal life.

By being grateful for what we have, we generate energy toward more of the same. So don’t focus on what you DON’T have, because energy flows where attention goes (you would just wind up with more of what you don’t want). Meditate to keep your mind firmly fixed in the right direction, and it will raise your awareness of things to be grateful-for in your prayers. See the beautiful relationship between the two practices?

 

What Two Failed Marriages Taught Me

When I was 25 I was so immature and needy… I depended on my first husband to appease me. I couldn’t see that making me happy or taking away my insecurities wasn’t his job. I truly felt it was his job. I also wanted him to see how horrible he was so he would change.. I kinda thought it was good that I was “helping” him change to be a better person… lol… I didn’t realize his “flaws” were just my perspective based on my personal needs. I also didn’t know that people don’t change unless they want to and decide on their own terms. No matter how right and justified I was, nothing could change a person unless they wanted that.

My second marriage confirmed those findings and so my lesson in that marriage was true love- how to love someone unconditionally… as is… and then how to love myself.

The loss of my second marriage brought me to my next lesson, which was my relationship with life. I came to learn (believe) that I am on a journey separate from everyone else- that we are all on our own individual journey. I must honor and respect them, have faith that their journeys are theirs and theirs alone to learn what lessons they are supposed to learn in life without my help.

I learned that I owe no one anything and no one owes me anything. I am not here to teach anyone anything and no one is here to teach me anything. I am to make meaning of my life in whatever way I feel best, to live by that meaning as best I can, as I navigate my way, albeit clumsily, throughout my very short life here on earth.

When trouble comes my way, or someone brings drama, I am but to focus on how I believe I should best process the situation and move on. I should not insist anyone see things my way or do things my way. If they were interested in what I had to say, they would ask.

Rather, my job was to simply state my reality, do what I think is best in that moment, and move on.

There will be those that will criticize me and blame me. People will mock me, judge me, and harm me. My job is to do the best I can to be the person I wish to show up as in this life, and move on.

If I fail, or if someone generously points out my failures, I will take note, and move on. For my life is mine and mine alone.

If someone comes into my life and wishes to share their journey with me, it will be based on respect and honor for our separate journeys, as we walk then together but separate as two separate but whole individuals. We will see each other as perfectly imperfect.

This person will see me as I am and adore me wholeheartedly, with no need or desire for me to change. And I too, shall see the same in this person. We will communicate with respect. We will be at peace. When there is love, there is freedom. When there is freedom there is love. Because of this freedom, we will share joy because joy is what we are.

The Courage to Feel Pain

Deep inside of us lies a pain that continues to mask itself as anger. And whenever something triggers this pain, we put our mask on and lash out in anger. We seek revenge to the person who reminded us of that pain. We demand revenge, or justice, not realizing that what’s really going on is a pain that’s been hiding deep inside of us. When awoken, it is simply asking for us to release it, to free it from its mask and let it come out just as it is. As pain. As tears. But we deny it’s freedom. We refuse to cry. It is far too scary for us to feel pain than to feel anger.

For so many years, the mask of anger has protected us all too well, so well that in fact, we have forgotten what it really was. Anger becomes our mighty shield, and we turn to that shield as a default, because it always works. It deflects any accountability and keeps us a victim. We continue to blame all our problems and discomforts on everything and everyone but ourselves. We get to shift all responsibility onto that which is causing us discomfort and this makes us feel in control. We believe that if they were not in our way, we would have what we need, and what we want. We make life, peace, and happiness conditional on external forces changing for our comfort and pleasure. And this keeps us a victim. And when we continue to hold this belief, and continue to allow our mask of anger to cover our truth, we get nothing but more anger. And we imprison ourselves and give our keys of freedom to those that continue to disappoint and anger us. Because after all, if it weren’t for them, life would be perfect… right?

But what if they weren’t there to blame? And what if, even in their absence, life wasn’t perfect? Then who is to blame?

So long as we are human, we will always experience disappointment and betrayal, and as much as we prefer differently, we don’t get to choose what disappointment and betrayal we get to experience. And to those who have hurt us, we don’t get to choose what type of justice is served, or even if it is served at all. But what we do get to choose is our attitude and response to the disappointment. Do we hold tight to our suffering, hold it as a weapon, and hide behind our disappointment with the mask of anger? Do we draw our sword and inflict pain on those who have hurt us? Tempting? Yes… But it does not solve the problem.

Healing is always an option and unfortunately, the only way out of our pain is through it. The first step to healing is to accept that the pain is there, it is real, and to actually feel it. That means to feel pretty crappy for a bit. And then you move on. Most of us aren’t comfortable with feeling crappy for even a short period of time.  When we can put the blame on something outside of ourselves, it somehow makes the suffering less intense- because we have suddenly relieves ourselves from having to feel any responsibility in dealing with the pain that came as a result of experiencing the disappointment.

Sadly, we spend the most energy on maintaining our victimhood. We want the person who disappointed us to feel as bad, if not worse, than we do. We demand that pain be spread evenly, and that all the world go blind in our effort to honor our sacred belief of “an eye for an eye”. Never once do we stop and think, “Maybe it is not just “me” that is suffering, but that the whole world is suffering”.

Not one person on this earth is immune to pain, suffering, disappointment, grief and loss. Rather than see outside our own immediate frustrations, we ruminate. We hold hatred and anger deep in our heart. It is so difficult to see beyond ourselves. It is so difficult to see the pain in others when we are so focused on our own.

The truth of our humanity is that we all are hurting in so many ways, and more often than not, we have absolutely no control over it. Knowing this reality, where do we want to invest our energy? There are only two choices: contribute to the pain or to strive to alleviate it.

May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings awaken to
the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.

 

On Love & Rigidity


A very dear friend of mine will send me songs every now and then, to listen to. Every time I get one, it feels like a little gift wrapped up, waiting to be unwrapped, listened to, and enjoyed. They are all new, and all different. It’s one of those small things I secretly, anxiously look forward to… 

There was one song that I particularly loved. I listened to it over and over. Curiosity crept in and I wanted to know the lyrics, so I searched for it on YouTube and found a version with lyrics. I was shocked to read the lyrics. Maybe I’m getting old, or maybe I’m just too sensitive. But the lyrics triggered something inside me and I suddenly judged this song, that I had loved so much, as a bad song, and decided I couldn’t listen to it anymore.

It seems silly, I know. But it made me realize how quick we are to put meaning on something, leaving us to separate ourselves from people and things that would or could have otherwise, brought us significant joy…

Blinded by my ego, or fear, maybe both, I told my friend that I had listened to the lyrics and decided I couldn’t listen to it anymore. He laughed and said the lyrics were not bad at all. It turns out out the version he sent me was a clean version and the YouTube version was the explicit version. I laughed at myself for being so quick to judge- so rigid… 

What a simple example but HUGE growth opportunity almost missed. Maybe… just maybe… people are like songs. ALL unique. All beautiful. Each one has its own purpose. Some are liked more than others. All having their own origin, roots, and depth. But it’s all beautiful in its own way, and when we start placing meaning on each one, based on our biased perspectives and experiences, we have to be careful about labeling it as good or bad. 

If we see everyone as a unique song, maybe it would be easier to just enjoy the music…and maybe even dance. 

On Being Lonely

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We become lonely because we yearn for connection from another human being. We desire to be heard, understood, and appreciated. And when these fundamental needs aren’t met, we feel lonely.

With these feelings we look outward for friends, events, romantic partners, and sometimes even addictions to fill that empty feeling looming deep inside of us.

And when we finally find that friend, romantic partner, or we go to event after event, we still feel empty in the short breaks in between. And we take great notice of that lonely feeling, and more often than not, we are pulled to fill even those small moments with anything so long as we don’t feel that loneliness.

The moment in which we feel the most connected with another person, is when we feel vulnerable. Why? Because we have exposed ourselves, our hearts. We have allowed another person to sit with that with which we were uncomfortable sitting alone with. And when we find that even under our deepest vulnerabilities and flaws, we are still loved, we are still valued, we are still WORTHY, it is then that we feel complete.

Paradoxically, without other people, we are incapable of “exposing” our vulnerabilities, yet it is precisely these vulnerabilities that we are afraid of exposing for fear that we will be rejected. Being vulnerable takes risk. It takes being humble, and a bit of humility. Being vulnerable takes a tremendous amount of courage. Most importantly, being vulnerable means being human. We are all flawed.

There’s a catch, and it’s a rather big catch. The trick to maintaining that feeling of being whole is to embrace all those vulnerabilities on your own. Being whole isn’t contingent on anyone but yourself. So if you find yourself courageous enough to humble yourself and become vulnerable, in that moment of vulnerability, know that it is not to gain acceptance or love by another but to live in your truth. And yes, if there is anything that you see in yourself that you do not like, you alone are responsible for changing it.

People are mirrors that reflect both the things we love about ourselves and the things we despise. This is why being vulnerable and true in your relationship is so important- to clearly see what is being reflected back to us.

When you begin loving and embracing who you are, we begin to love ourselves, and when we end up in moments with ourselves, we suddenly realize, we are not alone, and we are whole.

How to Let Go

LettingGo2-300x275

Most of us struggle with letting go, not because we really needed that thing (relationship, situation, job, environment, behavior, etc.) in our lives, but because the concept of letting go is so overwhelming.

We know we have to “let go” of things that are not good for us, but aren’t quite sure what it means to let go, if we are ready, when we’ll be ready, the consequences, or even how to go about doing it. The idea of letting go sounds like something we have to do physically, emotionally, and simultaneously. But the truth is, it doesn’t happen overnight.

We may imagine letting go to mean having to cut our ties, burn bridges, and run away as fast and as far away as possible, “then everything will be alright…” Sometimes we might even think that letting go means completely giving up on our goals, ambitions, hopes, dreams, or precious relationships. We may even see “letting go” as denying the importance of that person/place/thing in our life. Seeing “letting go” in this way is overwhelming, to say the least, and very unattractive. Letting go on those terms makes sitting in our discomfort far more appealing. Fortunately, letting go is none of that. It might help to understand what letting go really entails, and how to do it effectively (or at least less painfully).

You see, we often see the thing in front of us as the cause of our unhappiness, and thus jump to the conclusion that it must be immediately removed from our lives in order for us to be happy. I’ve seen two extremes: some will stay in that place that we believe causes us a great deal of unhappiness, thinking there is no way out of it, so we might as well suck it up. And some will completely escape the situation because they believe there is no way to find happiness in that given situation.

Eight months ago, my husband left me. For some reason, I really thought that he would be nicer, given that his new life was free from all the things he said he hated about me. He blamed me for making him so angry. Surprisingly, even after 8 months apart, his anger has worsened. He became more verbally abusive. He lashed out more often. He blamed me for even more things (crazy random things like his cell phone not working). His attitude and words were filled with such hatred and, I have to admit, every word he said felt like it was a spear lunged into my heart and laced with poison. My heart hurt for a long time. I thought, “What did I do to deserve this? Why is he causing me so much grief? When will he finally stop hurting me and let me be happy…?” Even ignoring him didn’t stop the attacks.

I lost a lot of sleep over every text he sent, every glare he gave me when picking up our son. After loving and caring for him for so many years, all he did was hurt me and hate me… I was truly unhappy. I tried being nicer, more generous. I spent countless hours going over our texts, wondering what I did or said that was so wrong, and planned how I would respond next time to elicit a better response. Maybe I could say or do something that resulted in him being more kind…more…loving?

What I thought was the cause of my unhappiness (his attitude and behavior), however, was actually not the cause at all. I had to dig deep, but really questioned myself. Why does what he say and do bother me so much? Why does it change the way I feel about myself? Why do I let this affect my health, and energy? Something had clearly triggered something much deeper inside of me, and I had to figure out what it was.

It took many months, and tons of therapy to realize that I was holding on to some kind of subconscious need inside of me for validation. I needed his reaction to me to validate my worth. What I really wanted to do was move to a different state so that I never had to see him ever again. I even considered quitting my job. I thought that my happiness depended on him changing.

I found that it is the letting go of THAT which makes letting go so hard. That thing inside us that says, without that changing, or without this condition, etc., I will suffer… I will be unhappy…my life is pointless… I thought I needed him to be a kind co-parent, for the sake of the kids, at minimum. But what it really was, was an unspoken need to be validated. To prove that I wasn’t a failure, a bad wife, or a bad mother. I rationalized my need for him to change by saying things like, “if he doesn’t change, he is setting a bad example to our child. So he MUST change. He MUST learn how to be kinder to me.” In reality, perhaps life would be better if he was more kind, less hateful and angry. Unfortunately, that’s just who he is and I don’t need him to change in order for me to feel good, or even confident, about my life, my value, and my future.

Letting go of that need drastically changed my life, my happiness, and how I saw him. After a while, it didn’t matter what he did or said. It was just him, doing his thing, and saying things that reflected, not me, but a really dark place in his heart that wasn’t ready or willing to heal. And perhaps it never will. And that is fine because my happiness doesn’t depend on it.

We hold on so tightly to that sense of identification we feel, or our attachment to the outcome that we become almost blind sighted from alternatives and positive solutions.

It is a great challenge, but one worth trying, to dig deep into what it is that we are really holding on to and why, and then…let it go.

What’s interesting is that once we finally do manage to let go, we realize that we never actually let go of the thing we thought we needed, but our attachment to it. Originally I thought I needed to let go of my husband being a real meanie, when in reality, all I needed to let go of was trying to define my value according to how he (or anyone else) treated me.

How To Make Others Change

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The majority of our suffering comes from thinking something or someone should be different. When it comes to people, we believe that if only they changed, things would be so much easier for us, and for them. Getting people to change is so difficult that the struggle in getting there, paradoxically, ends up ruining the relationship altogether. The result: everyone suffers. Suffering comes from a desire to fix, control, or change reality. So how do we get people to change without ruining relationships and driving ourselves mad?

It hurts seeing those we care about doing things that we know are bad for them. And while it may be completely true that they would benefit from making changes in their lives, what we don’t see is the energy and negativity that comes pouring out of us when we fixate on that inner desire of ours to get them to change to be more “easy for us to be around”.

What we don’t see is the excessive negative energy we put there, and the amount of energy that gets sucked out of us- so much that we have very little left to apply in our own lives, our own problems, and our own issues.

For the longest time, I was guilty of this.  To the point of being aggressive, emotional, and angry and hypervigilant, I would get overly involved in other people’s lives. I was completely blind to the extent it took away my inner peace. I was losing sleep, I was getting anxious, and started building up resentment toward the people I claimed to “love”.

This is a form of codependency. When we get involved in places that we have no power, neglecting our own personal health, well-being, growth, and independence. We make ourselves sick with bitterness and judgement about how someone behaved, thought, or spoke in a way that we didn’t agree with. Sadly, this only leads to a breakdown, and sometimes end to the relationship.

We meddle in other’s lives because we care, we worry, and we think we know what’s best for them. And perhaps that’s all justified and coming from good intention and a loving place. Then again, there are times when our own lives are so messed up that it just feels easier to focus on other’s problems instead of our own. But the truth is, wherever it comes from, and whatever reasons we have, we have no real or meaningful power over others behaviors, choices, thoughts, or beliefs. So how do you change them?

You can’t.

But you can influence them.

Trying to maintain our own inner calm is hard enough, but to try and make magic in someone else’s life by changing them into someone you think they should be only leads to trouble. The only meaningful power you have is to find that peace within yourself, juggle your own inner calamities, and love. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. Love each other. Be kind to everyone. Because believe it or not, people are always watching. It may not feel like it but they are. Even when they are repeating over, and over, and over again, the behaviors that keep getting them into the same predicament, they are watching. They’re watching to see if it’s possible to be a kind, patient, loving human being. They are watching to see how to unconditionally love others and accept others and support each other on their journey in life. If you want to make people change, start there.

A Mindful Toolbox

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When asked about meditation or mindfulness, we need to be careful about the use of certain words that can be a real turn off to many- like “spiritual”, “light”, and “energy”. While there’s nothing wrong with those words, it’s like throwing a bucket of water on a lit match- the match being those who are curious but weary of trying it out. When you’re going through a hard time, no one wants to hear “I’m sending you love and light”. What the hell is that?! Will I feel it when it arrives? Am I now obligated to send it back?

When I’m asked about coping mechanisms, therapy options, and ways to overcome the hard times, I have to be very cautious about what words I choose and with whom, because while the tools I’ve learned or know of are effective, they are not easy to “sell” if you label them with religious and spiritual tags. If presented in the wrong way, they can either come off as overwhelming, impossible to implement, or even boring and ineffective. The problem with this, is that we’ve seen through science and research that these “mindful tools” actually work in treating anxiety, depression, addiction, codependency, and can positively promote one’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Over the weekend, I was speaking with someone who was at the end of their rope dealing with their partner’s addiction and PTSD. As I was trying to explain the benefits of mindfulness and being “present” (as opposed to ruminating on past events or future desires) I explained that I’m not always “being mindful”, and when I’m stressed I don’t always go find a cushion to sit on and meditate my stress away. Practicing mindfulness, meditating, practicing gratitude, patience, compassion, etc., these are all just tools that I selectively choose to pull out of my “Mindful Toolbox” when I find myself in a rut. Using the right tools at the right time is the key to effectively solving problems. It is easy to think drinking (or any addictive behavior) our problems away is an effective tool for reducing stress or eliminating our problem, but unfortunately as much as we want to believe it, it just makes our problems worse or can extend the length of time we suffer. That is obviously not the right tool for those times.

And while it would be nice if we could just have that one “Swiss army knife” that “did it all” unfortunately, there isn’t one in life. That said, here are just a few tools that I’ve found work well for me, and when I use them:

Gratitude: Like a screwdriver, it can be used to put together almost anything. So long as you have screws. In life, when things don’t go our way, we feel “screwed”. We often don’t see anything positive about what we’re going through. Everything is so immediate. Practicing gratitude is an awesome tool to use, not just when things get sticky, but daily. Every morning, the moment you wake up, take a few deep breaths and think or say out loud: “Thank you for another day. Thank you for this breath.” Because frankly, the alternative is you don’t get another day and you don’t get another breath… yikes…

Patience: Patience is comparable to a cordless power drill. First, you need to know how to use one, and second, if you don’t have the right charge, your tool is useless. Patience isn’t about sucking it up and bottling up all your disappointment and anger. It’s about realizing you can’t build anything unless you’ve got a positive charge, and in order to do that, you can’t have a negative charge. Take a time-out if you need to. Breathe, and get positively charged. Not everything needs your immediate response. Patience is what keeps you from saying and doing things that hurt yourself and others in the long run. And although it seems counter-intuitive, it actually gets the job done much faster than shooting from the hip. You can see clearly and because of that, your chosen response comes from a place of meaningful and positive power as opposed to negative chaos.

Compassion: The glue that binds everything together. There’s this famous story in Buddhism about lunch in heaven and lunch in hell. Both places have a gorgeous set up with huge dining tables covered with the most delicious food, and both places require that the only way to eat the delicious food is to use the forks provided. The problem is the forks are 5 feet long. Obviously, in hell, they suffered for eternity, unable to eat because the forks were too big. In heaven, they were happy and full, as they used the forks to feed each other. This is compassion: the conditions in our human life can be the same, but depending on our attitude and beliefs, the way we experience life will vary significantly.

Love: This is about as close as we will ever get to having a Swiss army knife. Love truly is the answer to everything; but the problem with this is that very few people understand what Love really is, and out of all the tools in the Mindful Toolbox, is probably one of the most difficult to master.

What is love?

Love can be understood and experienced in so many ways. But to me, my favorite definition of love is found in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4-13:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not become angry easily. Love does not remember wrongs done against it. Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always continues strong. Love never ends… When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child; I made plans like a child. When I became a man, I stopped those childish ways. It is the same with us. Now we see as if we are looking into a dark mirror. But at that time, in the future, we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part. But at that time I will know fully… So these three things continue forever: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.