Finding Purpose

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

― Albert Schweitzer

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Almost 60 years old, and most of my friends and I still talk about finding our calling, finding life’s purpose. What are we truly meant to do?

Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps explains:

“Finding your calling — it’s not passive. When people have found their calling, they’ve made tough decisions and sacrifices in order to do the work they were meant to do.  In other words, you don’t just “find” your calling — you have to fight for it. And it’s worth the fight. People who’ve found their calling have a fire about them,”

Isay has listened to thousands of people tell their story and describe fighting to find their purpose.  He describes his amazing work with StoryCorps in this great TED Talk – Everyone Around You Has a Story the World Needs to Hear:

 

A wonderful article in Daily Good elaborates on Isay’s findings by outlining the 7 lessons Isay describes in his new book:  “Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work.”

I love this first Lesson:

1. Your calling is at the intersection of a Venn diagram of three things: doing something you’re good at, feeling appreciated, and believing your work is making people’s lives better.

 

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That diagram shows the ‘sweet spot’ – intersecting three things: Doing something you are good at; intersecting with the knowledge that you are making people’s lives better – service; and feeling appreciated for this work.  This idea mirrors Albert Schweitzer’s quote:

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

Your calling takes courage and doesn’t always pay well. But we know it when we are doing it.  We get in the flow; we feel good about ourselves and our work; time flies; and although the pay check may not be great, we keep doing it because we know it is right for us.

So I think it’s quite fitting to close with this video entitled: How to Know Your Life’s Purpose in 5 Minutes!  After all, at almost 60 many of us are running out of time!

I’d love to hear if you’ve found your life’s purpose and how you found it.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

The Power of Forgiveness

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
― Anne Lamott

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Really exciting news – Arianna Huffington, renowned founder of Huffington Post, has launched a new venture called Thrive Global!

Thrive Global’s mission is to end the epidemic of stress and burnout by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance both well-being and performance.

Recent science has shown that the pervasive belief that burnout is the price we must pay for success is a delusion. We know, instead, that when we prioritize our well-being, our decision-making, creativity and productivity improve dramatically.

Thrive Global’s three interconnected core components are: corporate trainings and workshops that bring the latest strategies and tools around health and well-being to organizations; a media platform that serves as the global hub for the conversation about well-being and performance with an emphasis on action; and, an e-commerce platform that offers a curated selection of the best technology and products for well-being. Together, the three components create an integrated platform that empowers people to make sustainable changes to their daily lives, going from knowing what to do to actually doing it.

Thrive Global is committed to accelerating the culture shift that allows people to reclaim their lives and move from surviving to thriving.

It is an amazing site and I urge you to check it out and if you are so inclined, sign up for their newsletter.  It’s helpful and healing.

I was honored to have an article about Forgiveness in their inaugural edition. And I’d like to share it here:

As we enter the holiday season, many of us will be joining family members and friends that we may not have seen in awhile. Time with family often dredges up old resentment and anger for a lot of us. And especially with the divisiveness of the past election, this holiday season may be rife with tension for many. When I think about the resentments I still carry around, I try to remember that forgiving those people I’m still angry at helps me, it’s for my own healing.

But I believe a lot of us get stuck on the idea of what forgiveness actually means. Forgiveness is defined as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether you believe they actually deserve your forgiveness. Remember the act of forgiving is for you the forgiver, not the person you are forgiving.

Forgiveness does not mean that you gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offence against you. It does not mean forgetting nor excusing what has been done. It does not mean you have to reconcile with the person or release them from legal accountability.

As Anne Lamott puts it: “Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare.” Forgiveness is for the forgiver. It brings the forgiver peace and hopefully freedom from anger.

I love Jack Kornfield’s definition of forgiveness:

Forgiveness is, in particular, the capacity to let go, to release the suffering, the sorrows, the burdens of the pains and betrayals of the past, and instead to choose the mystery of love. Forgiveness shifts us from the small separate sense of ourselves to a capacity to renew, to let go, to live in love.

Ok so forgiveness is for the forgiver, but why should we do it in the first place? What’s in it for me? Here are a few great reasons. The Mayo Clinicexplains that letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Higher self-esteem

We may accept that forgiveness is a good thing to practice in general, and can actually be good for our health, but how do we go about it? What exactly do we do? Fred Luskin is a pioneer in the science and practice of forgiveness. He offers us nine steps toward forgiveness:

1. Understand how you feel about what happened and be able to explain why the situation is not OK. Then discuss it with someone you trust.

2. Commit to yourself to feel better; remember forgiveness is for you and no one else.

3. Remember forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to reconcile with the person who upset you; it does not condone the action. In forgiveness you are seeking peace for yourself.

4. Recognize that the distress now is coming from the hurt feelings and physical upset you are currently suffering, not from what offended you or hurt you when it happened.

5. At the moment you feel upset, practice stress management to soothe your body’s fight or flight response. Take a deep breath.

6. Stop expecting things from other people that they do not choose to give you.

7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you.

8. Remember that living well is the best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving power over you to the person who caused you pain, look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you. Put more energy into appreciating what you have rather than attending to what you do not have.

9. Amend the way you look at your past so you remind yourself of your heroic choice to forgive.

So if old resentment and anger is dredged up this holiday season, or if new frustrations and resentments emerge, remember letting go of the anger and practicing forgiveness is for your own peace of mind. Try taking a deep breath and walking away. It’s for your own good.

I’d like to close with a video that I love. It is worth watching again and again. A video by Jack Kornfield called The Ancient Heart of Forgiveness.

I hope you’ll take some time to watch this powerful video. I’d love to hear your thoughts about forgiveness, and how you manage to forgive those who have hurt you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

The Power of Silence

“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.”

– Francis Bacon

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Silence. What does that word bring up for you? Does it bring up fear? No TV, no internet videos, no talking! Or does it bring up a craving? No distractions, no barrage of noise.

I’ve been thinking a lot of about silence and sleep lately because of some neuroscience studies I’ve read about recently. Research shows that sleep and silence are much more important for our brains than we imagined.

Much of this research corroborates the research I did for my Creative Positive Reframing (CPR) process. In this process there are three main steps: Identify, Reframe and Embed.

Identify the negative – and then do some ‘Synaptic Pruning’

Reframe with positive messages

Embed with visualization, meditation and silence

We all have lots of negative, limiting beliefs about ourselves and our abilities that exist in our brains.  One of the best ways to stop these beliefs from having a free reign in your brain is to stop focusing on them and focus on something positive instead. But once we are able to stop focusing on them, how does the brain get rid of those negative thoughts that exist in old neural pathways?

Our brains get rid of old pathways with a process scientists call ‘Synaptic Pruning’

“Imagine your brain is a garden, except instead of growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables, you grow synaptic connections between neurons. These are the connections that neurotransmitters like dopamine, seratonin, and others travel across.

“Glial cells” are the gardeners of your brain—they act to speed up signals between certain neurons. But other glial cells are the waste removers, pulling up weeds, killing pests, raking up dead leaves. Your brain’s pruning gardeners are called “microglial cells.” They prune your synaptic connections. The question is, how do they know which ones to prune?

Researchers are just starting to unravel this mystery, but what they do know is the synaptic connections that get used less get marked by a protein, C1q (as well as others). When the microglial cells detect that mark, they bond to the protein and destroy—or prune—the synapse.

This is how your brain makes the physical space for you to build new and stronger connections so you can learn more.”

Perhaps you are not as interested in the science, so suffice it to say, that the more you use a neural pathway, the stronger it becomes. But the opposite is also true, when you use it less, it gets weaker.  So once you identify the negative belief system, STOP focusing on it! But then the brain needs time to do some clean up, getting rid of the old synaptic pathways.

Our brains need time to prune a lot of those old connections away and build more streamlined, efficient pathways. It does that when we sleep. Our brains do this clean out when we sleep—your brain cells shrinking by up to 60% to create space for your glial gardeners to come in take away the waste and prune the synapses.

And in fact, you actually have some control over what your brain decides to delete while you sleep. It’s the synaptic connections you don’t use that get marked for recycling. The ones you do use are the ones that get watered and oxygenated. So be mindful of what you’re thinking about.

So be mindful of what you are mindful of. Replace the negative with something positive, Reframe it. Be conscious of what you focus on.

There is a saying in neuroscience that neurons that fire together wire together. This means the more you run a neuro-circuit in your brain, the stronger that circuit becomes. Rick Hanson explains this well in his article in Greater Good.  So if you want to take limiting beliefs and creatively transforming them so that they become supportive rather than destructive, this is how you proceed. Hanson explains that ‘You can change your mind, to change your brain, to change your mind for the better!’

Then finally we need some silence to help embed these new neural pathways. Visualization and meditation are key factors. I often talk about the power of visualization and meditation in this blog. So much has been written about it, there is no question that both of these practices are hugely beneficial to the brain and to life!  But what about silence?  More and more research is showing just how important silence is for our brains.

 A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons. “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system. In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.  The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence.

I’d like to close with a wonderful TED Talk by Nick Seaver called The Gift of Silence.

I hope you’ll take some time today and give yourself the gift of silence, and the gift of a great sleep as well. I’d love to hear about your experience with silence.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

Being Too Busy

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”
― Socrates

Busy – So damned busy!  It seems like everyone I speak to  recently is saying the same thing. Too damned busy. Argggghhh! The way it manifests for me is that I feel chaos in my brain.  I feel like there isn’t enough room in my brain for everything that I need to keep track of. I keep telling people that I wish I had that little tool that Dumbledore used in Harry Potter, the pensieve. Well not the pensieve itself, which is the shallow stone or metal basin used to review memories; but instead the tool, the little crochet hook thing itself that Dumbledore uses to take the thoughts and memories out of his head. He explains:

I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links.

I’m not as concerned with the patterns and links, but mostly just to extract the excess chaos out of my head!

With this in mind, I was touched by the latest article in Daily Good: The Disease of Being Busy.

How did we get so busy that we no longer have time for each other? What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.

I love the way the writer, Omid Safi,  explains about haal

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

I want to remember this the next time someone asks me how I am doing. I do not want to go into a litany about how insanely busy I am these days. I will try to remember to answer from a place of how my heart is doing at that very moment. And when I ask people about how they are, I will hope they can tell me something about their own heart and soul.

But is there anything that we can do to avoid this avalance of busyness?  In this short video –  I feel too busy! How can we get out of this busyness trap? Oliver Burkeman gives us some ideas.  The one that resonated with me is to make sure that we choose what’s important, and to schedule time for the stuff that fills us up instead of continuing to do what depletes us.

It will never all get done, so until I find that elusive pensieve tool, I shall endeavor to make time for the things I love and choose what’s important!

 

 

I’d love to hear how you avoid the busyness trap. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

Light wins over darkness – and the light is Love

“Anytime you try to be a loving person, you’re doing your part to save the world.”
― Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson has been such an important role model for me and countless others. And at the moment, she is doing a series of live stream videos.  Her message is so important.  The world feels like it is teetering between light and darkness, and her message is that it is vital to stay in the light – it is up to all of us!

The world is complicated, but Truth is not. As the world has practically exploded in violence this week, the temptation is to spin out emotionally, to try to escape the anxiety so understandable given that the world has gone mad.

But the craziness of the world outside us is no match for the holiness within. There is no real contest between the power of light and the power of darkness. Darkness can obscure the light, but it cannot destroy it. Light, on the other hand, dissolves all darkness. And the light is love. It is God. Each of us, in our own hearts, can now devote our lives in service to the light. And we can do so together, increasing the power of our prayers.

In all of our lives, this new level of service, this deepening of our devotion, will take a different form. Let’s begin by simply loving each other. Let’s take a moment to close our eyes and send love to our friends and family, to pray we might be better at everything we do, that we might be of greater service. Let’s put all our relationships in the hands of God, and ask that in the midst of a world gone mad that He make us very deeply sane. That He make us conduits of His power and vessels of His love, that together with Him we might save our world.

And then let us have faith. God has a plan, though He cannot do for us what He cannot do through us. He needs us to think what He would have us think and do what He would have us do, and love will prevail at last. Today and every day let us expand our hearts just a little bit more, that darkness shall fall away.

And it will. It absolutely will.

Let’s all commit to being conduits of the Light. Let’s all commit to Loving each other. Let’s not worry about what name we call Light – whether it is God, Infinite Wisdome, Divine Light – the name does not matter.  Let’s just commit to loving each other.

Our lives depend on it!

I’ll close with an older clip of Williamson’s – well worth watching.

 

 

Please share any thoughts about this subject, we all have to work together. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Replacing Negative Self-Chatter

“We cannot always control our thoughts, but we can control our words, and repetition impresses the subconscious, and we are then master of the situation.”
― Florence Scovel Shinn

I love that idea – that repetition impresses the subconscious, and we are then master of the situation.  I can’t always control my thoughts, and sometimes my thoughts are not fun.  But I can try to replace them, and sometimes I just talk louder than my thoughts and drown them out!

Here is the first exercise from my book This Way Up: Seven Tools for Unleashing Your Creative Self and Transforming Your Life – from Part Two – The Workbook – Week One, Day Three.

This exercise is about replacing negative self-chatter with deliberate, conscious words.  When I’m feeling really scared and small, and fear is all I can feel, sometimes I stomp my feet and yell the words!  . . . *yeah and it’s true – sometimes I just curl up in fetal position and hide…  But when I am able to unfurl from fetal, then I stomp my feet and yell!

Here is the exercise from the workbook – Week One – Day Three.

I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it helps.

 

 

Please let me know if it is helpful at all for you in replacing negative chatter.  And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

GNH – The Movement!

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Gross National Happiness has become a movement!

This message, the movement is about happiness and well-being that comes from living in harmony with nature, living in harmony and balance with others around you, and being in touch with your deepest sense of self, your highest wisdom, which transends culture and boundaries that are man made.  Possibly our best way forward in our survival as a planet.  It is about our truest, deepest sense of self in unity with all others.

Tho Ha Vinh, program director of the GNH Center in Bhutan describes GNH like this:

GNH is a kind of medicine, to heal the illness of our times. The first message of GNH is about reconnecting with our natural environment – in a way that we acknowledge, respect and value the sacredness and the interconnectedness of all life forms.  The second message of GNH addresses the economic crisis, which is more of an ethical and moral crisis than an economic crisis, so the second message is about creating a caring economy, an economy based on altruism and compassion; collaboration rather than competition and destruction. The third message of GNH is reconnecting with ourselves, with our deepest highest potential.

What a beautiful message. What an amazing philosophy.  It is believed that a lot of the meaninglessness that we experience in modern life is a direct consequence of our disconnection with nature, with others, and most importantly with ourselves.

It is time to reconnect with self. That is the beginning. It feels impossible to change the world! How can we get anyone in power to focus on GNH instead of GNP?  But it starts with ourselves, today it starts with me!

Thank you Jayne for sharing this with me, she’s always there to help, and I really appreciate her friendship!

Please take the time to watch this wonderful video. It’s so inspiring!

 

 

I’d love to hear what you thought of the video, and as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Live Life Fearlessly!

“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless in facing them.

– Rabindranath Tagore

The importance of love – and remember to love yourself first;  Live life fearlessly; and remember love keeps you safer than fear does. What wonderful messages.

I have been preparing for my book launch, so sending out short writing pieces about finding purpose after feeling purposeless; about empty nest and other major life transitions; and a lot about the Seven Tools from my book, This Way Up as I get closer to my book launch date (pssst it’s on April 26th if you didn’t know!  You can order it now on Amazon)

I talk about the concept of finding purpose, about love being stronger than fear and about living fearlessly to just about anyone who will listen.  So I was quite thrilled when my friend Jayne sent me the link to a TED Talk called Dying to be me by Anita Moorjani.  Anita went into a coma and almost died – and now thanks the cancer which riddled her body for saving her life.  Moorjani states it was that near death experience which taught her the meaning of life.  Moojani explains that what we focus on, what we pay attention to is what our life reflects.

She states that the five main lessons she learned from that experience are:

  1. The main thing we should be focusing on is Love.  And it is vital to love ourselves first.
  2. Live Life Fearlessly (and remember love keeps you much safer than fear does!)
  3. Focus on humor, laughter and joy
  4. Life is a gift.  Live each day as a gift.
  5. Always be yourself. Be the best You that You can be.

I think this TED talk is amazingly inspiring.  Thank you Jayne for sending me the link – and thank you all for watching it.  I hope it inspires you as much as it inspired me.

 

 

I’d love to hear about ways that you life fearlessly.  And as always, thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

This Way Up, The Website!

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy

― Marcel Proust


I am so incredibly grateful to my son Lukas! He makes me very happy.

It’s an exciting time.  I saw/heard a message when I was meditating 2 days ago:

Envision what you want, do what needs to be done to set it up and step into the life you’ve created.

That’s exactly what it feels like I am doing at the moment. Now that my book is written, I am getting it out there. Lukas has built a beautiful website; I’ve had business cards made with the website and new email address; I’m setting up speaking and book events and I’m stepping into the life I’ve created.

Suffice it to say that at 58 (my birthday was yesterday!), building a brand new website, although not completely impossible for me, would be way way beyond my skill set.  As a matter of fact, most of the stuff going on in my life is way outside my comfort zone; I’m on a steep learning curve!

Please take some time and visit the new website; it’s crisp and clean and colorful and creative. It’s called:

This Way Up Book (www.thiswayupbook.com)

I’d love to hear what you think of it. You can comment on it here or on that website’s comment page.  I’ll be keeping workshops and events for the book updated there. So visit often!

I’ll close with a wonderful video about gratitude – because I’m sure feeling grateful today!

Discover the three keys of gratitude to unlock your happiest life!

Pursuing the good life in 2016

There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.

– George Sand


There has been an amazing study done at Harvard that has lasted over 75 years.  Robert Waldinger describes this study in a new TED talk, and the findings are hopeful.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. For 75 years, we’ve tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out.

It’s not more money, it’s not longer hours at work, it’s not fame and fortune . . . (*but we knew that didn’t we?)

What they learned is this:

The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this:

Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.

Three big lessons were learned about relationships.

The first is that social connections are really good for us, and that loneliness kills. It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected. And the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic.

The second big lesson that we learned is that it’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters. It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health. High-conflict marriages, for example, without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced. And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective.

And the third big lesson that we learned about relationships and our health is that good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains. It turns out that being in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80s is protective, that the people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories stay sharper longer.

So in a nutshell, the study tells us that the good life is built with good relationships.  And we can all work on that.

I’d like to close as Dr. Waldinger closed, with a quote from Mark Twain:

“There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”

 

 

I’d love to hear about how you nurture your relationships. And as always, thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.