Category Archives: Be The Change

Healthy Boundaries – The Key to a Healthy & Happy Life

healthy boundariesWe often confuse setting boundaries with shutting people out or being selfish. In fact, more often than not, when you enforce boundaries with people who are not use to having boundaries, it is likely they will react negatively and call you controlling, a b*tch, and other harsh accusatory names. Don’t bend! Why? Because setting healthy boundaries is quite the opposite of what many people believe and can save you a lifetime of drama once you understand the concept.

Setting healthy boundaries means creating limits to protect your integrity, your energy, home, money, health, children, priorities, your relationships, and more. Healthy boundaries, however, is NOT controlling someone or making rules for others to live by.

Creating healthy boundaries do not push people away or control other’s behavior. Quite the opposite of what is believed, creating healthy boundaries for yourself promotes healthy relationships because there is a clear line of who you are and what you stand for (providing true visibility for those who wish to respect you), and allows yourself to give fully from a genuine and healthy place.

So what are some types of healthy boundaries? To start, here are a few that I’ve found helpful to remember when dealing with people (work, romance, friends, family, etc.):

* I will not be involved with a person whose words and actions don’t align.

* I will not be in a relationship with a deceitful person.

*I will not give up my passions (reading, writing, yoga, meditation) for anyone.

* I will not tolerate abusive behavior of any kind to others or self.

Setting healthy boundaries is actually pretty easy. It’s enforcing them that is hard. We usually know what we like and don’t like (what we allow and what we will not allow). But when it comes to actually following through on them…. we get stuck.

In short: Don’t make boundaries you can’t follow through on. But if they are important boundaries that your personal mental and physical health require, keep the boundary and fight for the inner strength to follow through on creating and maintaining your boundaries. Your boundaries are key to emotional/physical safety, healthy relationships, and a happy life.

Saying Sorry When You’ve Done Nothing Wrong

sorry

“Apologizing does not always mean that you’re wrong and the other person is right. It just means that you value
your relationship more than your ego.”

When someone tells us that something we’ve done or said has somehow hurt or offended them, our natural instinct is to defend ourselves. And while it is easier to apologize for something that we have clearly made a mistake for, as I’ve recently witnessed, some people will flat out say, “the hell I’m gonna apologize! I didn’t do anything!”

And while it may be completely true that we didn’t do anything intentionally to cause another discomfort or pain, an apology isn’t taking the blame for that pain and discomfort. I repeat: An apology IS NOT taking the blame for the other person’s pain and discomfort. An apology is an expression of compassion, acknowledging that the other person has been hurt. It’s about respecting that they feel pained. Yet so many people automatically connect apologizing with being at fault.  This even stands true when the person that has been hurt flat out tells you it’s your fault. Assuming you did not intentionally hurt that person, even if you know it isn’t your fault, being confronted about our actions hurts and not much helps take the feeling away that their accusation is personal- as if you are under attack and falsely accused of something you didn’t do.

etiquette-for-apologizingSo why apologize?

  • We apologize because we appreciate making things right over making someone take the blame.
  • We apologize not for what we have done but because we are compassionate enough human beings to not completely invalidate someone else’s emotions for the sake of being right.
  • We apologize because we are mature enough to realize that sometimes our actions affect other people more than they affect ourselves.
  • We apologize because we recognize that feeling sorry for someone and feeling regret about something are two very different things, requiring two very different emotions.
  • We apologize because we value the relationship more than our ego.
  • We apologize because we know the cost of not apologizing has negative long-term affects on our emotional and social well-being.
  • We apologize because even if the other person does not accept our apology, we have “cleansed” ourselves from wrong-doing and have allowed the other an opportunity to take some responsibility towards the healing from their pain.

In adult-world, it’s called “taking the high road” or choosing peace over contempt. Taking this path requires courage, bravery, a strong sense of confidence, and identity.

In all cultures and religions around the planet, one theme always remains consistent: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Especially when we are not aware that we have somehow caused another some kind of pain, it is important to acknowledge their pain. To not do so risks the end of important or potential relationships. It also prevents us from possibly learning something about ourselves (that we unintentionally have the power to hurt other people and thus have the power to make things right).

high road
Yes, you have the power to make the world a better place, and all with a simple 2 letter word: “I’m sorry”.
Or, if you really want to make it clear that you didn’t mean to cause any such feelings/harm, you could add a few words clarifying that you had no intention of causing them any pain.

A common theme I heard from some people on the side of not apologizing was that the people being “hurt” were just being dramatic, or trying to be “superior”. It is very tempting and all too easy for us to attempt to play the role of “God” and ensure that they do not get to be superior to us, and that they are not allowed to play drama queen. We believe we are showing “tough love” in that we are helping them deal with the harsh realities of life – that it’s hard and we don’t always get the apology we think we deserve. We might even think that we are showing them who’s boss- falsely believing that an apology from us is a confession of our own weakness or cowardice.

lion truthI love the quote, “The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself”. I’m not talking about drastic scenarios here. I’m still talking about low-key stuff. If it’s an obvious offense, it required alternate actions, but in cases like these, if the person claiming they’ve been hurt is saying they’re hurt, they are entitled to those feelings. Why are they hurt? How were they hurt? Are they just drama queens trying to get some attention? That doesn’t matter as much as the separation it has caused. And that’s where the apology serves it’s purpose. The great thing about an apology is, if it’s done right the first time, it doesn’t have to be done again. Do it and get it over with. The rest (healing) is largely on their shoulders now.

If I had one piece of take-home advice, it would be this: You can apologize and still be right in what you’ve done or said (or didn’t do and didn’t say), and still allow the other person to feel the way they feel. Just because they feel a certain way doesn’t assume you are the bad guy.

Lastly, remember that while some of us need to learn how to apologize, many also need to learn how to forgive. Both equally difficult, but equally possible.

How A Beat Up 1987 Toyota Camry Changed My Life

wrecked-car-clip-art

At one of the largest turning points in my life (my 2nd year of undergrad in New York) I was ready to throw in the towel and give up on life. I was flunking all my classes. I walked in on my boyfriend of 4 years sleeping with another woman. I had two jobs and still, my bank account was nearing zero. I was living off of canned tuna and rice. I was living in a basement and still couldn’t afford rent and was being evicted.

“Why try anymore? I’ve done so much already and nothing happened. It’s too much work, and I don’t know if my efforts will ever pay off. What if I’m destined to live this life? Why not just accept it?” I told myself.

Here I was, a small town girl from Idaho, living in New York trying to make something of myself, but no matter how hard I tried, I kept failing. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t good enough. It’s not fair! Why does everyone else have it so easy and I have to struggle? No one loves me. No one will ever love me. I’ll always be a failure. I’ll never find happiness… “I quit! This is hopeless!” I told myself.

On what I decided was my last week of class, my professor noticed my glum attitude and asked me to dinner. That night changed my life. We talked about why I was sad, what I was so disappointed in, and why I was blaming my life and problems on external things like other people, my childhood, and “bad luck” or “destiny”. She told me:

“Everything that you have done in the past, and everything you are doing right now, and everything that you will do in the future is because YOU chose to do it. Everything that you didn’t do in the past, and everything you aren’t doing right now, and everything you don’t do in the future is because YOU chose not to do it.”

I fought back, “No! I don’t have a choice in this! I tried! I did my best! It didn’t work! It’s hopeless now….I’m not at fault! This is just life. I’m being realistic!”

She repeated what she told me, again, and again, and again, until it finally sunk in. “THIS IS YOUR LIFE, AND ALL OF IT IS YOUR CHOICE. AND YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR CHOICES AT ANY MOMENT…”

Wait… what? I can change my choices at any moment? At each and every moment in my life, I can change what I chose to do or not do…

13 years have passed since that day. The greatest lesson of my life. Sometimes I still want to externalize my disappointments. But I’m constantly reminded of her words. I learned that honestly owning up to your choices (good or bad) takes a lot of courage. I learned that if one choice didn’t put me where I wanted to be, I had to make a different choice.

So ask yourself: “Do I like where I am right now in life?” If not, “What did I do to get myself into this situation?”

Now ask yourself: “What can I choose to do now to change my situation?”

The good news is, no matter what choice you make, IT’S ALL YOURS!

The bad news is, that no matter what choice you make, the consequences are all yours too. So choose wisely…

But if you really want it, you do what it takes. Yes, the first few steps are the darkest and scariest, and it might mean leaving New York with your tail between your legs, feeling like a failure while you get into your broken down 1987 Toyota Camry in the middle of summer with no radio and no air conditioner, with one door hanging off it’s hinges, and driving across the country to move back in with your parents and starting all over until you get back on your feet… (or not! That’s just what it took for me.) The point is, no one is to blame for your life, and changing it is scary because we are essentially stepping into the unknown- out of our comfort zone – that place where, ironically, all the juiciest, yummiest, priceless payoff is waiting. Yup… A good life takes effort, work, and time.

I learned that no magic fairy dust or princess wand was going to bring bliss to me on a silver plate… (Yeah, I think I may have honestly hoped it would at that time. And why not? I deserved it! I was a good person. I had good intentions. I was a hard worker. I was nice…I thought…)

What I learned was that no one on this Earth owed me anything. What I learned was that those first steps, however scary, ultimately empowered me and served as a reminder that I AM THE MASTER OF MY LIFE. If it sucks, it’s because I let it suck.

This life is all yours. If you don’t like it, or notice you keep seeing the same disappointments, CHANGE something you are doing in your life! But your life is yours, and only yours, for the taking. It’s your birthright. Own it. Your ONE life is here for you now.

It Was The Goddam Bell… How our Classical Conditioning Is Getting In The Way of Loving Relationships

classical conditioning ii
When in an argument, are we reacting or responding? Reacting would be that immediate spontaneous reaction that comes out of us without much (or any) thought because that is what we are used to. It’s what we programmed ourselves to do to protect ourselves from “harm”. For example, someone you love pisses you off. Most reactions tend to be the silent treatment or some kind of retaliation (pushing their buttons, blaming them, etc.). We might get our way temporarily, but it doesn’t solve the fundamental problems, and we’ll see them continuously pop up again until we learn how to react differently.

I’m not saying we are dogs salivating to a bell, but I do think it’s interesting to consider that perhaps our reactions to outer stimuli may just be as simple as that. The goddam bell triggers us to react unlovingly, and maybe that’s not necessary…

Maybe… faster, longer-lasting resolution comes with actually giving thought into how we respond to the stuff based on actual consideration of what kind of long-term outcome you really want…

Not an easy task, for sure. But definitely worth the effort.

Walking the Talk

walk the talk
One of his last words to me was, “You talk about loving kindness, but do you really think you apply that in our relationship?”

The thought sat with me for a long time… I didn’t want to admit it.. “No…I didn’t”

In a moment of intense emotions, I said things I now regret. Things I knew would hurt him most. I told him I questioned his sanity. I told him he was insecure and reactive. I gave him the silent treatment for a whole day. And later, I did what I normally do to cope with all this inner turmoil and yuckiness, which is to write about my feelings, knowing full-well that he hates when I publicly write about my personal life.

At the moment I felt justified. This is how I cope. And telling him how I felt about him at the moment was true. He let me down, and I felt he MUST be aware of how I felt. I had to “show” him how hurt I was.

But as I showed him how I was hurting, I was simultaneously hurting him as well. It was like exchanging my pain for his pain. And then I realized that in doing so, I most certainly was not thinking at all about loving kindness. I was not thinking about the feelings of this man I loved.

And the more intense our argument became, the more we spat unloving, condescending, disrespectful words back and forth at each other. We were mean and cold. Yes, two people who genuinely loved each other so very much, did this to one another.

I began to realize, maybe I was justified to say what I said… But did I have to? Was it necessary? Was it helpful? And maybe he was justified to say what he said too. But he didn’t have to. And we both know it is not helpful or necessary. What are we getting out of this verbal slammage? What are we trying to prove?

I don’t think we got anything out of it. But I’ll tell you what we didn’t get though. We didn’t get closer. We didn’t feel very loving. We didn’t feel loved. We didn’t feel cared for, listened to, respected, and we most certainly did not feel very forgiving. In our exchange of verbal aggression, what we walked away with was animosity, anger, resentment, and shame… And what we lost? The very thing we were fighting for… Loving each other.

As I sat there reading his text asking if I really applied all that mumbo-jumbo about loving kindness, and realized that I actually don’t, I felt like I had just walked flat into a mirror face first. It was true… I was not walking my talk. In fact, every time I was presented with the opportunity, I never did… It was always the same pattern of behavior. Silent treatment and blaming the other person. It wasn’t a coping mechanism. It was a defense mechanism. Defending myself from having to deal with that ugly unloving reactive part of me. Regardless of who is at fault, when someone we love does something “unloving” to us, naturally, our first thought is that they don’t really love us. We feel betrayed. We begin to doubt them. We must remember that those feelings go both ways.

You can carry that anger and resentment, and assume that they do not love you. After all, their behavior did absolutely nothing to prove their love to you. Yes, you can stand your ground and demand an apology before (and IF) you forgive them. You can certainly “teach them a lesson” and make them feel bad until you yourself feel just a little bit better…

Or you can understand that they too, are hurting- hurting in some way far deeper than you can or will ever understand, and perhaps they do not know how to lovingly express that fear, anger, resentment, or insecurity… JUST LIKE YOU!

You see, even when there are walls between you, you still are so much alike. You are still so similar. It’s that part that makes us human. We all come with our own stories, and regardless of who the “bad guy is” the way we deal with our disappointments really has nothing to do with the other person, but something deep inside of ourselves.

The thing is, we never truly know what the other person is going through, because, simply, we aren’t them. We are all walking our own path. We feel things differently, we experience things differently, and we process things differently. After remembering this, it occurred to me that I actually was walking my talk. Granted, I wast doing a HORRIBLE job of it, but I had realized that through every failed love, every mistake I’ve made both personally and professionally, I was opening myself up more and more, growing more and more, and changing for the better.

In all my interactions, I had always tried my best to be loving, kind, and compassionate. And yes, in many (*cough* ALL) of them, I failed miserably. But it was the opening and expansion through these mistakes that left my footprints, proving that, indeed, I was walking my talk- and it was precisely that hurt, and pain, and all those grand failures that served as an opportunity to try my “talk” out through real life experiences. And that’s just how it is. We depend on others as mirrors. We depend on others to really learn and come in to know love.

Maybe it’s not about learning greatness and then applying it, but learning greatness, preparing yourself to use it, and then jump into that unknown, hoping and praying (fingers and toes, and eyes crossed!) that we can successfully apply what we’ve learned when the time comes. And at that same time, when other people let us down, disappoint us, or offend us, we can remember too, that they are also taking that scary, scary leap of faith. They too, are taking with them all that they know and are also given daily opportunities to make a choice- to love or not to love. Just like you, they will also experience success. They will also experience failure.

So you see, walking the talk isn’t about doing everything right. It’s about moving forward, continuing to live, and open yourself up to all the disappointments and failures of both yourself and others.

My love, I’m truly sorry.

Your Reality, My reality, and Living Peacefully Within The Two

priroda-osen-listya-travaSAID A BLADE OF GRASS

Said a blade of grass to an autumn leaf, “You make such a noise falling! You scatter all my winter dreams.”

Said the leaf indignant, “Low-born and low-dwelling! Songless, peevish thing! You live not in the upper air and you cannot tell the sound of singing.”

Then the autumn leaf lay down upon the earth and slept. And when spring came she waked again — and she was a blade of grass.

And when it was autumn and her winter sleep was upon her, and above her through all the air the leaves were falling, she muttered to herself, “O these autumn leaves! They make such noise! They scatter all my winter dreams.”

The paradox of all relationships is that when we find ourselves with someone that is so different than us, if they do something that pisses us off we tend to conclude that they have some serious mental problems and need to change or fit into our mold in order for us to get along, when actually it’s simply that not only are they their own being, but they have their core values and beliefs are different than our own. We tend to put a value on their behavior with the label “right” or “wrong” with anything they do, say, or believe that is similar to us as being “right” and everything that goes against what we believe as “wrong”. Our natural reaction is to either “fix” them, point out their flaws, or run the hell away from them. When these people are around us and their behavior or their attitude conflicts with what we are aiming to achieve, the conflicting values make us feel uncomfortable and causes a sense of tension between us, and sometimes a standing animosity.

over-under

To put things into perspective, let’s use a simple example of which way you replace the toilet paper (if you even do that, or just leave it for the next person to take care of). Some people would argue that the toilet paper should always be facing out, while others believe it best to face in (and then there are those that couldn’t care less which way the TP faces). I personally believe that facing out is better, because you can tear it off easier. But that is my reality. It is also true, and just as valid that putting the toilet paper facing in is also very practical to someone. You’re thinking, “like who? Right?” Like people different than us. And that is precisely the paradox I’m speaking of: Us vs Them.

Because we are so different, and our values are conflicting, we tend to default to creating walls between us. It’s safer that way, and we don’t ever have to deal with that uncomfortableness ever again…until we come into contact with another person that isn’t in alignment with our beliefs. By avoiding these differences, building walls, or holding an “Us vs Them” attitude we gradually lower our tolerance to variance and ultimately make ourselves “allergic” to things that make us uncomfortable. Our intolerance for difference is what causes conflict, war, hatred, and animosity.

walls

Just as there are different realities, there are different ways of thinking about this topic as well, and this blog is just my own projection of my own reality. For example, there are some people that believe walls should be built between those very different from ourselves for whatever reason. There are some people that believe that through continued effort to communicate and negotiate, you can eventually reach a win-win. I think in many cases, a win-win approach is quite possible as long as both parties follow the rules agreed upon. But I think the key to long-term conflict resolution (especially when communicating and negotiating doesn’t work) is to respect an alternate reality and acknowledge it can be just as valid and true as our own, because the fact is, we are not that person. I am me. You are you. We did not live the other person’s life. We do not have their background and experiences.

If there is a God, and God made each and every one of us, that means that we are all special. But that also assumes that we are all a little different in a variety of ways. And the experiences that we go through further create differences- some of them great and some of them not so. But it is my belief that there can be a peaceful coexistence among multiple realities (Keep in mind, I’m not talking about psycho serial killers and things of that nature. I’m talking about basic human interaction and a wide variety of relationships we find ourselves getting in and out of throughout our lives).

That said, if we could just accept the notion that in this great big world, there are people out there living a completely different reality than yours- a reality that makes absolutely no sense to us. There are people that are aware of those differences but firmly believe that they are right and the other is wrong. What I’m saying is, you don’t have to understand why someone does something, and you don’t have to like what they do in order to be at peace with them.
There are a number of possible realities, with yours being one of them, and all of them are different, and equally valid for each of us in our lifetime. What if we tried respecting the idea that although they are completely different than you, although what they think, say, believe or do makes absolutely no sense to you, that it’s ok. That weird thing about them does not remove any value they have as a human being, and doesn’t necessarily qualify them as being a bad person, or even an unloving person.

My personal opinion is that if God didn’t want them on the planet, he/she wouldn’t have created that person in the first place. All people, the people similar to you and the people different than you have some huge genius purpose in this world. It’s easier said than done, but you can actually trust the Universe. Sometimes nothing makes sense immediately, but it all falls into place in the end, and if you want to love others and be loved in all of Love’s true glory, it’s better to open the door to your heart to uncertainty a little more.

Your Life Isn’t, and Has Never Been, About You…

Profound wisdom from an author of one of my favorite books, “Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up” by Zoketsu Norman Fischer. He recently spoke at a Stanford Baccalaureate explaining why your life is not and has never been about you…

“A moment is a moment. As with all other times in life, there are highs and there are lows. Today you may be feeling high, and that is beautiful. Time passes though, and you forget about that moment. But right now, you have the skills, connections, and obligations to do great things. And this means not only great things for yourselves-  you are expected to do great things for others and for the world. So let’s be honest: the future really is in the youth. And yet the truth is it is not always going to be easy to survive your promising life, anywhere in the world. There is so much competition, and anxiety about that competition, that it is possible that success won’t come easy, and it’s also possible that success won’t come at all. Or maybe it will come in abundance, but you don’t find it as meaningful as you thought it would be. Or, maybe success comes and you find it satisfying but only at first when it is still bright and shiny and exciting, and later at the state and with the implications of the successful life you have lived, it will wear you down and you will find yourself tired and confused.

It could be that as time goes on from this day, some of your personal relationships don’t work out the way you hoped they would. It’s possible that your sense of self doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. It’s possible that there will be disappointments, setbacks- some acknowledged and some buried deep within and not acknowledged. In short, it is very possible that from this day forth there is some pain awaiting you: bad love affairs, betrayals, losses, disillusions. Likely, you are going to have some seriously shaky moments. Maybe as you move through the decades it will become increasingly difficult to maintain the idealism and hopefulness that you have right now. It could be that one day you wake up and you find yourself wondering what have I been doing all this time? Who have I become?

You’ll keep busy. You’ll have a lot of things to do. And if there are such feelings, you’ll try your best not to notice them. If there is any despair, disappointment, discouragement, or boredom that you’re feeling years from today, you’ll try not to notice and I bet you’ll be able to do that- to not notice it…

I should say something encouraging.. and I do intend to do that! But, I figured I would be more convincing if I were also pretty realistic and it is realistic to say that your lives from now on will not be that easy. It is realistic to say that the skills you will need to survive may be more than, or other than, the skills that you have so far in your lives. Because the truth is that it takes a great deal of fortitude and strength to sustain a worthwhile, happy, human life over time in this actual world that we live in.
LIFE
So here comes the uplifting part:

Your life isn’t and has never been about you…
It isn’t, and it has never been about what you accomplish, how successful you are (or are not), how much money you make, what sort of position you ascend to, or even about your family, your associations, your various communities, or even about how much good you do for others in the world.

Your life, like mine, and like everyone elses, has really only ever been about one thing: LOVE.

Who are you, actually? And where did you come from? Why were you born into this life? You didn’t ask for it. When this short human journey is over, where do you go next, and why and how does any of this exist? What is the point of it all? Not even your Nobel-prize winning professors know the answers to these questions- these inevitable and unavoidable questions. The only thing we know is that we are here for a while and then we are gone, and that WHILE WE ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE TOGETHER, Which is why the only thing that completely makes sense, the only thing that is completely real is LOVE.

This is not a mystery and this is not news or some great discovery. Everyone actually knows this even though we forget about it. Love is always available to you wherever you look and when you dedicate yourself to love- when you dedicate yourself to be kind to everyone you meet, not just the people on your side, AND not just the people you like and approve of, but EVERY human and EVERY non-human being, then you’re going to be ok.

In your life, whatever it brings, even if it brings a lot of difficulty and tragedy, your life will be a beautiful life. I hope that you find this uplifting…

But there’s more… HOW do you love? What does this mean? How do you make your love real so it’s not just a pretty idea? This does not happen by itself. It takes attention, commitment, and effort over time. It doesn’t come from wishing or believing or assuming. You’re gonna have to figure out how NOT to get distracted by your personal problems, by your success (or lack of success), by your needs, desires, suffering, various interests, and ALWAYS keep your eye on the ball of love, even as you inevitably juggle all the rest of it. So you have to commit yourself to love and you have to have a way- a path or a practice for cultivating love and strengthening it throughout your lifetime no matter what happens, because love is not a feeling, it is an overarching attitude and spirit. And it’s a daily activity.

When you go about this practice of cultivating love, whatever practice you choose, the most important characteristic of this practice is that it must be useless- absolutely useless. In other words, it has to be an activity that has no practical effect other than to connect you to your heart and to your highest and most mysterious purpose- a purpose that is literally unknown because it references the unanswerable questions I mentioned a moment ago.

We’ve been doing so many good things for so many good reasons. Lots of good things for our physical health, psychological health, emotional health, family life, future success, economic life, for your community, for your world… but the practice of love that you choose must be a practice that is useless. It doesn’t do anything but to touch our lives beyond all concerns. For example, you could practice gratitude. Have you ever woke up in the morning and just been grateful for another day?

Another practice might be the practice of giving. Giving doesn’t have to be money or gods. Giving can be a daily intention of just a kind word or smile. Or you could practice kind speech on all occasions even difficult ones – committing yourself to speak as much as you can in kindness, and with inclusion of others and their needs, hopes, and dreams – not just speaking from your own side.

Or you can practice beneficial action – committing yourself to intentionally acting with a spirit of benefiting someone else (For example, you could wipe the counters after you’ve used a public restroom, or you could pick up and throw away someone’s garbage in the park) .

Or you could practice identity action, recognizing that when you do anything you are not, and cannot do it alone by your own power. You’ve never done anything alone and by your own power because inevitably whatever you do involves others, and the whole world involves others in a world of support. For example, you cannot breathe air on this Earth without the trees producing oxygen.

Or you could practice compassion – which is going toward, rather than turning away from, the suffering of others and your own suffering. We all want to avoid pain so much that what we do in our lives is focused on avoiding pain- making pain disappear. But oftentimes we cannot make pain disappear- so can you go toward it rather than run away? Can you become softened or brought to wisdom by the unavoidable pain found in others or yourself?

All of these practices share one thing: they come from love. They encourage love. They produce more love. And when you do them over time, little by little it conditions your heart and you discover that you are living in a world full of love, and for your life and for our lives collectively in the times to come, of all the things we need the most, we are going to need much more love. LOTS OF LOVE.

In good times, love is lovely, and in hard times, love is absolutely necessary. Love turns tragedy into opportunity. It turns something unwanted and difficult into a chance to drive love deeper-  to make it wiser fuller more glorious and more resilient.

Fenton Johnson said, “One can and should lay great plans, but life has its own ebb and flow and our first duty is to be present to that ebb and flow. We must realize that failure and success are social conceptions that can be useful but that in their conventional definitions have little to do with what really matters, which is to study and practice virtue.”

Timothy Kelly said, “How one lives one’s life is the only true measure of the validity of one’s search.”

So, please, do seriously think about it. Not in a grim way, but with a certain amount of joy and lightness. It is amazing to be alive. Amazing. Unlikely. What is really worthwhile and what is just a distraction, no matter how much another person tells you what is and what isn’t. Only one person can do that, and that is you.

I’m happy for the life you’ve had so far, and I’m congratulating you and hoping for your life a head, a life of challenge and difficulty and passion. What an opportunity.

Watch here if you want to hear it for yourself! (Starts at 29:00 and ends at 57:30).

How To Finally Let Go and Let Live in ONE Week!

Here is a FREE 7-day program that will finally allow you to let go and let live. All in ONE week!

After learning this technique, my life was changed forever, and I thought I’d share this little gift with the world, so here it is, in 5 easy steps!
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1) Go out and find a large rock. It should be light enough to fit in your pocket and heavy enough to feel the weight. Now name it. You can write that name on it or not. Whatever works for you. I called my rock “Stress”, with other pet names such as “Anger”, “Frustration”, “Worry”, and “Resentment”.

2) Put your new rock in your pocket and carry it with you every where you go. No pocket? No problem! Just hold it. Put it in your purse, your backpack, your bra. Whatever you got! Taking a shower? No problem. Bring it with you. This rock will be your new best friend for the next week.

3) After the first few days, reflect on how you feel. Not bad, right? No biggie. Still not sure what’s the point? That’s ok. Keep carrying it. Talk to it. Feed it. If you give it enough attention it will grow!

4) After three days, reflect on how you feel. Did people ask you about it? Did you find it getting in the way of things you wanted to do? Places you wanted to go? A little embarrassed? Did it become such a burden on your day that you weren’t as productive as you could have been? Are you starting to feel weighed down? Keep carrying it! Introduce it to your friends!

5) After the 7th day, reflect how you feel. Are you ready to throw that rock away? Are you ready to end the friendship you’ve developed to it? Ready to let it go? Or do you want to carry it around a little longer? At this point it’s your choice. You can carry it with you for as long as you want. You can also choose to leave it and carry on with your life.

“Stress”, “Worry”, “Frustration”, “Regret”, “Insecurity”, “Fear”… She was my best friend for nearly 25 years. I loved her. She was there for me. She never let me down when I needed a really good excuse for not doing something. The comfort of holding on to our relationship seemed more easy than letting her go. But one day, I decided it was time to go our different paths… And my life has never been the same.

Now I realize that it was my choice all along to carry all that stress, worry, frustration, regret, insecurity and fear with me. Letting go was never the hard part. It was carrying it with me for 25 years that was the ultimate burden.

DISCLAIMER:
This site and the information referenced herein does not constitute an attempt to practice medicine. Use of the site does not establish a doctor-patient relationship. The information presented on this web site is not intended to take the place of your personal physician’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The Blame Game

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We all make mistakes, and we all seek forgiveness. Ironically, we also tend to downplay our own mistakes and over-dramatize the mistakes of others. And because we know what our intentions were, we expect forgiveness to come easy for the ones we have hurt or disappointed, yet we find it so difficult to forgive those that have crossed us. Why do we do this?

It’s hard to move on from our past mistakes especially when people keep bringing you down, or reminding you of your failures or bad decisions. In the peak of my divorce and child custody battle, I remember my ex forwarding me old emails of things I’d said or done that weren’t that “smart”. He would leave old anniversary or Valentine’s Day cards I had written him when we were married on my doorstep as a “reminder”, and screenshots of texts I’d sent to him when I lost my cool. He would document the moments I was less than the perfect mother, and say I was a horrible, weak, ignorant person that could not be trusted. He would threaten to use my childhood trauma and history of psychological counseling as “evidence” that I was an unfit mother, and that my son had to be taken away from me. He would keep detailed notes of who my friends were, and threaten that by being their friend I was exposing my son to “bad people.”

At one point, I began to believe him. His stories almost became my stories. Maybe I was a failure. Maybe I should have stayed in the marriage. Maybe I was stupid. Maybe I was mentally unstable… No.

That was not true. That was his story, not mine.

We all make mistakes and it’s important to remember that not all mistakes are one-sided (well, some are…) I’ve never liked the word “mistake”. I prefer to call them “bad calls” or “bad choices” because mistakes make it sound like we didn’t have a choice in the matter. When we make bad choices, our job is to own up to them. Now if you’ve paid your debt, even if the other person hasn’t moved on, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t move on. You don’t have to wait for someone else to move on in order for you to. Sometimes forgiving yourself is the best thing you can do. When we forgive ourselves or others, we are not saying that what was done was ok or somehow justified. When we forgive ourselves or others, we are simply saying that what has happened is done and we love ourselves and others enough to move forward and grow from that experience. This doesn’t mean that crimes should never be put to justice. What it means is that we don’t have to ridicule, put someone down, or remind them of bad decisions made (and it might help a little, or a LOT, to acknowledge the role that you played in that experience as well).

But if someone keeps bringing up your past or telling you that you will always be a horrible person because of something you have done, that’s ok. It isn’t a reflection of who you are, it’s a reflection of where they are in life at that moment. And it’s ok to forgive yourself for what you’ve been through. Although it is ok to feel bad and maybe even a little regret for the bad decisions you’ve made, it is NOT ok to stay there and live in the past, and it is NOT ok to allow another person to keep you or pull you back into that past.

We are progressive beings. We move forward, we evolve. Most importantly, we love, and we love passionately. Our spirits thrive on goodness. We feel joy in kindness and being kind.

And so maybe the next time someone belittles you or tells you how horrible you are because of your past, try this:

Think deeply at the last time you held a stubborn stance when someone apologized to you. Look back on the last time someone let you down and you hesitated to forgive them or respond in kindness. Remember that time when you were judgmental about someone who did something you questioned as morally wrong.

Regardless of how unkind another is, regardless of the mistakes others make, we too, have unkind moments. We too, make hurtful choices. We too, have difficulty forgiving.

I have a challenge (for myself, and I ask it of you too). The next time someone makes a mistake, instead of pointing out the flaw, how about looking for a way to encourage them?

“You’ve come a long way. I’m so proud of your progress. Look at how well you’ve been dealing with ….”

And if they still are struggling, maybe add kind suggestions that get them thinking, such as:
“I noticed that when x,y,z happened, you responded by doing, a,b,c. I wonder if your message got across to them effectively…?”

Perhaps these small gestures can end the cycle of this blame game, one person at a time, and encourage empowering relationships instead.

Maybe, instead of blaming and pointing fingers, we can build people up. Bring forth encouragement when people are at their lowest. Remind them, by our own actions, that peace prevails. Goodness prevails. Love prevails. It always has, and it always will.

And if that doesn’t work (because sometimes it won’t) and those SOBs keep bringing you down, fly high! There’s a story I once heard that goes something like this:
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When a storm is coming, the Eagle sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm.
While the storm rages below, the Eagle is soaring above it.
The Eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher.
It rises on the winds that bring the storm.

When the storms of life come upon us – and all of us will experience them – we can rise above them by setting our minds and our faith toward a greater good.
The storms do not have to overcome us. We can allow our faith and fearless inner peace to lift us above them.

Faith is what enables us to ride the winds of the storm that bring sickness, tragedy, failure and disappointment in our lives.

Like an Eagle we can soar above the storm.  Remember, it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, it is how we handle them.

(Story adapted from http://www.indianchild.com)

What is Soulful Detox?

“We tend to think of nourishment only as what we take in through our mouths, but what we consume with our eyes, our ears, our noses, our tongues, and our bodies is also food. The conversations going on around us, and those we participate in, are also food. Are we consuming and creating the kind of food that is healthy for us and helps us grow?”
-Thich Nhat Hanh

If thoughts, behaviors, perceptions, and experiences are food, what kind of “food” do you feed your mind/heart/soul? What thoughts do you have? Do they help you grow or do they hinder your growth? Do they give you inner peace or cause you stress?

While we wish to put the huge responsibility on others outside of us, we are responsible for taking care of our “soul” the best we can. How? By being selective of what we put in or allow into our mind and body, and by being mindful of what we are neglecting when we don’t take care of your soul.

When we are born, we were given a body to house our soul. The body carries us physically, but our soul is like a priceless tool that helps us navigate our way through life.

As we navigate our way through all these experiences, however, we will inevitable experience  both the things we LOVE as well as the things we don’t- the things that bring us comfort as well as those that cause us much discomfort. That’s life. That is the human experience.

There are those who try to take just the good and escape the “bad”. Some people use alcohol or drugs, while some people do other things like shopping, eating, compulsive sexual behavior, codependency, overworking, violence, etc. But as long as we are alive, there is only one thing that we are guaranteed, which is that life will always change. We can take it and run with it, or we can sit and pout.

When I founded Soulful Detox, my intention was to simply share my experiences and how I either overcame adversity and where I still struggle. Soulful Detox was me just trying to get to know that “soul” inside and the daily little toxins (resentment, control fear, etc.) that slip in. This journey, which I hope you will join, is simply a place where we learn how to detoxify so that we can live a more empowering, loving, meaning and fulfilling life.