Happy 2017 – A Year for Cultivating Gratitude

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
― Thornton Wilder

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Happy New Year! I think the general consensus is that 2016 was a rough year for most people, on so many levels.  But in this post I don’t want to focus on politics or difficulties, but instead on cultivating gratitude. A new year is the perfect time to be cultivating gratitude and a renewed focus on what you appreciate. And 2017 is in particular a great place to start because from a numerological perspective, 2017 is a “one” year. (In short: 2+0+1+7 = 10 = 1+0 = 1.) Numerology looks at time in nine-year cycles, in which a “one” year begins a new nine-year cycle of creativity, learning and growth. It is a time of intentions and planning for the next phase. The intentions and foundations you build in 2017 can help shape the upcoming years. A “one” year is the perfect time to set intentions and goals for yourself.  It’s an important year to take time for yourself and clarify the direction you want to travel. And a perfect time to focus on gratitude for what you have.  My new years message talks about this and about the importance of silence in your routine. You can read more about that here in my newsletter.  And if you want to read more about the science of silence, you can read about that in my article in Thrive.

Cultivating gratitude is so important as we enter 2017.  Psychology Today defines the benefits of gratitude as:

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to, for example, a consumer-driven emphasis on what one wants. Gratitude is getting a great deal of attention as a facet of positive psychology: Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, gratefulness—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.

Another good reason to cultivate gratitude is:

“Your experience of life is not based on your life, but what you pay attention to.”

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And when you pay attention to what you are grateful for, that becomes your experience. It becomes your experience that life is good and full and wonderful.

I have often quoted Melody Beattie here but it is so appropriate, I have to do it again.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

 

In Japanese Psychology, on a wonderful site, The ToDo Institute,  seven principals for cultivating gratitude are given:

  1. Gratitude is independent of our objective life circumstances
  2. Gratitude is a function of attention
  3. Entitlement precludes gratitude
  4. We often take for granted that which we receive on a regular basis
  5. Gratitude can be cultivated through sincere self-reflection
  6. Expressing gratitude, through words and deeds, enhances our experience of gratitude
  7. Our deepest sense of gratitude comes through grace, with the awareness that we have not earned, nor do we deserve all that we’ve been given.

If you are looking for a way to focus on gratitude as 2017 unfolds, I suggest getting a ‘Gratitude Journal’ – and start by just writing down 3 things you are grateful for every morning before you even get out of bed. And if that feels too hard, then just think of 3 things you are grateful for before you get up. That’s a great start!

If you are feeling more ambitious, I can suggest a wonderful course on Daily Om! It’s a new course I have authored and it’s available here.  The course is offered with the option of selecting how much you want to pay. No matter how much you pay, you’ll be getting the same course as everybody else. Daily Om believes that people are honest and will support the course with whatever they can afford. And if you are not 100% satisfied, they will refund your money.  So what have you got to lose? It’s a great way to start the year.

I’ll close with a YouTube clip describing the course so you can get a better idea of what it is about.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you cultivate gratitude and it’s impact on you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  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.

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.

This Way Up!

“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh


This Way Up! Here I go!

In my last post Smile,  I let you all know that I was asked to change the title of my book. As I said in that post, I felt frustrated and kinda old. However, what I learned was as Thich Nhat Hanh explains:

For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.

What a wonderful week of uncovering and abandoning old views.  I asked for help (ah there’s a novel concept!) First, I called my friend Tam in Seattle and we brainstormed together, from the red chair. Then I asked for ideas from my son Lukas. And then my incredible editor Annie and I brainstormed some ideas.  And finally, I sent off our top 5 ideas to Brooke at She Writes Press. Eventually it was a bit of an amalgamation of everyone’s ideas.

So the new title of my book, as reflected by the new look and title of this blog page is:

This Way Up: One Woman’s Path to Fullness and Joy

I’m so glad I asked for help, and that ultimately I was willing to let go of feeling old and stuck and embrace the new.

To honor the concept of asking for help, I’d like to close with a wonderful video, Bill Withers singing Lean On Me.

Please let me know what you think of my new title. I’d really like to hear your opinions.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Insights from 2014

Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it.
Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin.

– Hermann Hesse


One of the things I love about starting a new year is making intentions. One of the intentions I usually make is to pay better attention. Which means that for the first few weeks of the year anyway, I’m paying closer attention to life, being more mindful in what I do. Wish it lasted longer than just a few weeks, but baby steps, right?

And along with intentions for the year to come, I love to look back on the past year and see what insights I’ve gained. One of my insights from 2014 is that I always feel better, more connected when I’m paying closer attention to the present moment. Another insight from this year is how much better I feel – body, mind and spirit – when I’m alcohol free.  So once again, I’ve decided to abstain from any alcohol for awhile.  This is not a new behaviour for me. Alcohol and I have quite a history. This isn’t a typical ‘New Year’s Resolution’ – this has been coming for quite awhile, I’ve been alcohol free for several months now. It just feels like alcohol doesn’t fit within the context of who I’m becoming.

I like reading the articles that come out in the new year about the ‘bests’ of the year that has passed.  And I love learning about other people’s insights from the previous year. So it’s no surpise that my favorite article is from The Greater Good Website.  Not only do I love that site! But the article combines those two things, the best of and insights gleaned. The article is based on the annual list of the top scientific insights produced by the study of happiness, altruism, mindfulness, gratitude – the science of a meaningful life. The article –  The Top 10 Insights from Science of a Meaningful Life in 2014  – is wonderful. It’s well worth reading the whole article, but for those of you who like things put in a nutshell, here you go:

  1. Mindfulness can reduce racial prejudice—and possibly its effects on victims.
  2. Gratitude makes us smarter in how we spend money. (Makes us better in all we do!)
  3. It’s possible to teach gratitude to young children, with lasting effects. (see the video within the article on the GG website)
  4. Having more variety in our emotions—positive or negative—can make us happier and healthier.
  5. Natural selection favors happy people, which is why there are so many of them. (So Be Happy!)
  6. Activities from positive psychology don’t just make happy people happier—they can also help alleviate suffering.
  7. People with a “growth mindset” are more likely to overcome barriers to empathy.
  8. To get people to take action against climate change, talk to them about birds.
  9. Feelings of well-being might spur extraordinary acts of altruism
  10. Extreme altruism is motivated by intuition—our compassionate instincts.

Each of these points is explained in depth in the article and is based on studies done in 2014.  As I said, well worth a read, helping us all work toward leading a more Meaningful Life.

I’ll close with a lovely short video about gratitude –

The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude

 

 

I’d love to hear about your insights from 2014. Or some of your intentions for 2015.

And as always thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Science of a Meaningful Life

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn


My friend Jayne sent me a wonderful link the other day.  It is so full of wonderful info that it kept me busy reading and listening for days! Thank you Jayne!  It’s from one of my very favorite sites that I have talked about before, Greater Good out of Berkeley.

I often talk about happiness in my blog, as a matter of fact, it is one of my favorite subjects.  But it’s not as simple as saying “Be Happy and your life will be grand.”

Happiness is good for you, but not all the time; empathy ties us together, and can overwhelm you; humans are born with an innate sense of fairness and morality, that changes in response to context. This has been especially true of the study of mindfulness and attention, which is producing more and more potentially life-changing discoveries.

One of the key points in the article is that:

A meaningful life is different—and healthier—than a happy one.

So what’s the difference between a happy life and a meaningful life? A recent study in the Journal of Positive Psychology explains a few of the differences:

Feeling good and having one’s needs met seem integral to happiness but unrelated to meaning. Happy people seem to dwell in the present moment, not the past or future, whereas meaning seems to involve linking past, present, and future. People derive meaningfulness (but not necessarily happiness) from helping others—being a “giver”—whereas people derive happiness (but not necessarily meaningfulness) from being a “taker.” And while social connections are important to meaning and happiness, the type of connection matters: Spending time with friends is important to happiness but not meaning, whereas the opposite is true for spending time with loved ones.

One of the most significant findings to have emerged from the sciences of happiness and altruism is that altruism boosts happiness.  Spending on others makes us happier than spending on ourselves.  The emotional benefits of altruism suggest that it is a product of evolution, perpetuating behavior that “may have carried short-term costs but long-term benefits for survival over human evolutionary history.” And mindfulness meditation makes people more altruistic.  Greater Good hosted a conference called “Practicing Mindfulness & Compassion,” where speakers made the case that the practice of mindfulness—the moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and surrounding—doesn’t just improve our individual health but also makes us more compassionate toward others.

The article is full of wonderful information.  In my opinion it is well worth the read.

Embedded within the article are several videos from the conference. I will include one here called Mindfulness and Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff.  I hope if you have the time and the inclination that you will watch all of the videos.  They are uplifting and inspirational.

 

 

Please let me know what you thought of the article and the videos, I’d love to hear from you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Happiness – At least 40% is up to YOU!

“Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today.  I can choose which it shall be.  Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet.  I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

― Groucho Marx


HAPPY – The Movie tells us in no uncertain terms that Happiness is within our grasp.

While 50% of our level of happiness is genetic, only 10% is attributed to circumstances (like income, health or the number of shoes in our closet).  The other 40% is up to us:  what we do, how we think and our intentions to be happy.

HAPPY is uplifting and insightful.  It asserts that we can actually re-wire our brains, altering its structure and function, by engaging in some simple activities.  And that happiness is a choice that everyone can make, everyday.  The movie outlines several ways to be happier:

  • Simple Meditation Practices (*see info below about the Compassion Meditation)
  • Physical activity, especially that which gets us “in the flow” and unaware of our surroundings, can contribute to chronic happiness
  • Other activities which get us “in the flow” – like playing music, doing something we love
  • Being of service
  • Community, being with friends, and of course, Love

This information is consistent with Martin Seligman’s findings:

Seligman’s Five Elements of Well-Being (PERMA):

  • Positive Emotions (P) – Feeling positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.
  • Engagement (E) – Being fully absorbed in activities that use your skills and challenge you. (Flow)
  • Relationships (R) – Having positive relationships is a universal requirement to well-being. (Community)
  • Meaning (M) – Belonging to and serving something you believe is bigger than yourself. (Service and Helping others)
  • Accomplishment (A) – Pursuing success, winning, achievement and mastery for their own sake. (Gratitude)

The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) is doing ground-breaking work on the subject of Meditation and Happiness.  One of the people interviewed in the movie is Dr. Richard Davidson:

Richard J. Davidson, PhD, is a renowned neuroscientist and one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of contemplative practices, such as meditation, on the brain. He is the founder and chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He is perhaps best known for his groundbreaking work in studying emotion and the brain. A friend and confidante of the Dalai Lama, he is a highly sought after expert and speaker internationally. Time magazine named him one of the most influential people in the world.

The same meditation practice used in these studies is offered by CIHM online, free of charge. So it’s even easier to choose happiness!

If you haven’t seen the movie, please take the time to watch it. In my opinion, it is nothing less than life-altering!

 


 

Please let me know if you’ve seen HAPPY, and if so, what you thought of it.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

Compassion, Connection and Unity

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis…it is the lack of love and charity; the terrible indifference towards one’s neighbor.”

– Mother Teresa


Bishop Desmond Tutu once said,  “The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”  We have to start somewhere to start healing our world. In I AM the Documentary, Tom Shadyac asks the important questions:  What’s wrong with our world? And what can we do about it?

Through wonderful, insightful interviews with Bishop Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Lynne McTaggart, Thom Hartmann, Howard Zinn and David Suzuki to name just a few, Shadyac explores what we can do to heal our world. Everyone interviewed agrees:

“This is the most profound discovery in all of physics.”

“The science shows us that we are all connected.”

“What we do at the individual level, really does affect the global environment.”

We really are deeply connected, and with compassion, we will experience unity.  And when we experience that deep sense of unity, I believe we wil begin to heal our world.

Bishop Desmond Tutu asks us to “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”  We can all start today.

The Shift is About to Hit the Fan!  All Aboard!

Have you seen I AM the documentary – if so, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.  And as always, thank you for stopping by.  I appreciate it.

Women, Men, Communication and Humor

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

– George Bernard Shaw


In my last entry, I closed the post with I’d love to hear what helps you communicate better and how you make your relationships work.

I had quite a few people email me, post me on Facebook,  reply to blog post directly, and even stop me on the street to comment.  And the overwhelming response was Humor! (Mind you all the responses were from women.  Not sure exactly what that means . . .)

But if we accept that men and women are hard-wired differently, as cited in several recent articles, and if we accept that if we actually think differently, communicate differently and process differently, what can we do but keep a sense of humor as we wander through the minefield? That, and as my cousin Diana suggested, keep small stashes of M & Ms handy!

I want to close with a short video from the TV show, Friends – looking at communication style differences between men and women.

 

 

I’d love to hear how humor has helped your relationship survive . . . or not survive as the case may be.  And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

Are Men and Women Wired Differently?

“Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other.  Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.”

– Katherine Hepburn


I just had the most delicious conversation with my dear friend Tam.  She and I have been friends for over 30 years.  When we talk, we go straight to heart level, which I value so much and crave so deeply.  As a woman, this need for deep heart connection is so important to me. And this brings me to the essence of this post,  yet another layer of stuff my husband and I are working through. 

I won’t go into the full background of the latest turmoil, it’s more than a argument or disagreement – it feels like a deep mis-understanding of the sexes.  Our communication feels like he’s trying to connect from the head and me from the heart, and I end up feeling like a bleeding mess in a puddle in the corner and he is trying to analize why and how it happened and what exactly was said to get there and what words can deal with it. 

After talking to Tam and to my sister and a couple of other friends, I noticed once again, not surprisingly that men and women really communicate differently. So I decided to do some research, and I found that it’s not surprising that we communicate so differently because research shows that men’s brains don’t work the same way that women’s brains work.   There is so much new research out there showing us beyond a shadow of a doubt that men and women are wired differently.

According to psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, the female brain is wired to empathize and the male brain is characterized by its tendency to systemize. The male brain seeks to develop a set of logical rules that guide another person’s behavior. When a man can’t understand someone else’s behavior through logic, he tends to become confused about how to proceed.  Women, on the other hand, may be more empathetic because their brains’ mirror neurons are more sensitive than men’s. Mirror neurons cause us to imitate emotions and actions that we’re exposed to. One theory is that women’s mirror neurons allow them to more easily hone in on another person’s emotional cues.

This quote just made so much sense to me!  I get so frustrated because it feels like my husband is trying to understand me “logically” – and does not understand emotional cues.  But if he’s not wired to do so, can I hold this against him?  Ah there’s the rub.  So I guess we just keep trying to find the common ground, and to work through this morass called relationship.

This video clip is a long one, well over an hour, but if you are interested in this subject, please do take the time to watch it, it offers some fascinating information on the brain differences between men and women.

 

 

I’d love to hear what helps you communicate better and how you make your relationships work. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.