This Way Up Six Week Online Live Interactive Workshop!

““Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
— George Bernard Shaw
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There are still a few spaces left for the This Way Up Six Week Online Live Interactive Workshop.
The six-week series begins on Tuesday 23 October at 5pm PDT and runs for six weeks:
Tuesday 23 October – Tuesday 27 November.

Here is some info about the workshop:

The workshop is completely free. There is no set fee at all. At the end of the six weeks, if you decide you want to donate something, you are welcome, but there is no expectation.
Each workshop is live, and videoed. If you miss a day in the series, you can go to our private You Tube page and watch what you’ve missed and do the day’s visualization. There is time for questions and discussions during each workshop. The shared community of women from around the world is wonderful!

This video will answer some questions for you, and if you have any other question, you can contact me at
patti@thiswayupbook.com

I hope to see you there!

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Surviving in the Age of Technical Overwhelm

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu
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For those of you who missed my September Newsletter …

If you are not signed up to received my newsletter and are interested in being on my mailing list, just message me below, or email me at patti@thiswayupbook.com

Please keep reading to find out how to sign up for 2 really exciting upcoming online summits.

If you are interested in learning more about the next This Way Up Online Workshop, watch the video below. Or if you are ready to sign up, you can click here. I’d love to see you there!

Welcome to This Way Up!

Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more information about dealing with A Crisis of the Heart and finding well-being; news about the upcoming This Way Up Online Interactive Workshop starting in October; and info about two upcoming events that you are invited to attend. You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.

Dealing with A Crisis of the Heart and Finding Well-Being
Surviving in the age of technical overwhelm

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love.”
~ Dorothy Day

There is a crisis of the heart impacting us at the moment. It’s showing up as depression, anxiety, and attention disorders. These are also symptomatic of a cognition crisis. Adam Gazzaley, PhD explains it as “a crisis at the core of what makes us human: the dynamic interplay between our brain and our environment—the ever-present cycle between how we perceive our surroundings, integrate this information, and act upon it.”

I explored this crisis in my recent article on Thrive Global.

The cause of this crisis is linked to the fact that we just cannot keep up with the rapid rise of technology and it is impacting our brains and our well-being. As Gazzaley put it: “Our brains simply have not kept pace with the dramatic and rapid changes in our environment—specifically the introduction and ubiquity of information technology.”

Some researchers explain that “the increasing complexity, speed, and multitasking of our modern environment has overtaken our capacities, and we live disconnected from our own self and from one another.” This disconnect from our self and from one another is perpetuating the crisis, and the crisis is spiralling out of control.

I discuss how Jack Kornfield describes reengaging the heart. There is hope! If you’re interested in reading more about this and watching Kornfield discuss wisdom, compassion and courage in uncertain times, visit patticlark.com.

It’s Here! This Way Up Is Now Available as an Audio Book!

This Way Up audiobook is now available for purchase! You can find it on Audible and Amazon and on iTunes. You can hear all about it here, along with a special invitation to get it for free!

Please let me know your thoughts if you listen to it. I’d love to hear from you.

This Way Up Online Interactive Live Workshops!

In May, I hosted the first This Way Up Interactive Live Workshop. There were ten women from four different countries taking part and it was amazing – exhilarating and uplifting! We explored many of the topics I write about in my book. But with the unity of sharing our common experience, it was so much richer than doing it alone.

Here’s what a few of the women said about the workshop:

“I really liked getting to know all the lovely ladies and the fact that we were all over the globe! And finding that other women have the same doubts and concerns about themselves that I do. It was fabulous! Keep me posted on next workshop, I want to share this.”
– Kathleen

“Thank you so much for the course. I really enjoyed it, as well as getting to know you and the group.”
– Shellan

“I enjoyed it all, but I think I enjoyed the interactive format the most. It was nice to feel the support and genuine caring from both you and the other participants. It was a very safe and supportive environment. It was very helpful to be guided through the visualizations directly, by someone I had built trust in. It was also helpful to hear the other participants’ experiences. It gave me hope, that doing the hard work and learning the tools will be worth it. I also enjoyed that we received helpful links after the session which enabled me to dive deeper into areas I wanted to work on. Your help was invaluable.”
– Stacy

Check out the video below to learn more about the workshop.

The next six-week series begins on Tuesday, 23 October at 5 p.m. PDT. The workshop series runs for six weeks: Tuesday, 23 Oct – Tuesday, 27 November.

Here is some information about the workshops:

If you want more information about the workshops, or you are interested in signing up for the next series of workshops, you can sign up here!

Upcoming Summits

You’re invited to this wonderful series:
Finding Yourself Master Class Series with the uplifting Clarissa Findlay
This event will launch on October 9.

You can sign up for this transformative Master Class here.

You are also invited to this fabulous summit:
The Unstoppable Artist Formula:
How to Claim Your Full Power as an Artist, Make Great Money, and Attract Your Perfect Audience
Hosted by the Incomparable Nikol Peterman

The Unstoppable Artist Formula launches October 29 and will run through November 8.

You can learn more about Nikol and the online event here.

Buy the Book!

“Author Patti Clark is a cross between Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron.”

This Way Up is a story of healing for women who yearn to lead a fuller life, accompanied by a workbook to help readers work through personal challenges, discover new inspiration, and harness their creative power. . .

Women spend so much of life nurturing and giving to others that when they find themselves alone—because of an empty nest, the end of a marriage, or the death of a partner—they often struggle with feeling purposeless. This Way Up provides a step-by-step way out of this sense of loss and into a life filled with enthusiasm, creativity, and joy.
Buy Online

Parting Words
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
~ Helen Keller

Thank you for being part of this movement. Watch this space for more in the months ahead.

Finding Purpose in Life

When we align our thoughts, emotions, and actions with the highest part of ourselves, we are filled with enthusiasm, purpose and meaning. Life is rich and full. We have no thoughts of bitterness. We have no memory of fear. We are joyously and intimately engaged with our world. This is the experience of authentic power … when the personality comes fully to serve the energy of its soul, that is authentic empowerment.”
– Gary Zukav
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A friend asked me recently what my life purpose is. She asked me glibly, almost as a joke, but I took it seriously. At sixty, I assume I ‘should’ know this. So I went home after that conversation and I did some research and some soul-searching.

I thought of Gary Zukav’s quote:

When we align our thoughts, emotions, and actions with the highest part of ourselves, we are filled with enthusiasm, purpose and meaning.

What Drives Me?

My first question for myself was what drives me, what is truly a driving force behind my actions. I thought of my children of course. My love for them is a driving force in every area of my life. But I drilled deeper, what else is a driver in my life. What gets me excited and passionate. When does my heart race? When am I filled with enthusiasm and meaning?

Write and Explore

I started journaling about it, exploring and drilling down. I wrote about what gets me excited; when do I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to do in this life? And I did some research too. I discovered several good articles about the subject. In Psychology Today, I found a good article, entitled: Five Steps to Finding Your Life Purpose. And a wonderful article in Greater Good called: How to Find Your Purpose in Life. Another helpful site was Jack Canfield’s Finding Life Purpose.

Create a Life Purpose Statement

After identifying a few drivers in my life, then I focused on what I love to do, and also what comes easily for me. I like communicating with people, I like to talk with people about real and meaningful subjects. I read in one article that it was helpful to create a Life Purpose Statement. This statement came eventually after thinking about what I love to do and why I love to do it:

“Inspiring and empowering people to become the best version of themselves, contributing love and joy to the world.”

I want to contribute love and joy to the world, not just by being the best I can be but by inspiring others.

Service

I also deeply feel that true life purpose comes through love and service. So I thought about who I want to serve and how I can best do that. Well, I love to write and to communicate and connect with people, so I write articles and share what I am learning. And I’ve started running workshops online for anyone looking for a bit of inspiration.

Follow Inner Guidance

And I continue to check in on my inner guidance. I make sure I take time every single day to meditate and go inward to ask for guidance.

I ask for clarity on direction, and when I get direction, I follow it. I think of Julia Cameron, she describes this guidance as her Marching Orders. I try to follow my guidance even when I feel awkward or under-confident. I was ‘instructed’ to start the online workshops one day when I was swimming. I had no idea how to do it, and felt embarrassed trying. My negative inner-chatter was rampant. But it felt very clear that this was an important part of my path, so I persevered. Trusting my inner guidance is crucial as I move toward my highest purpose, because my ego and fear can easily steer me off the path.

Cultivate Awe, Gratitude and Altruism

And finally, in my pursuit of life purpose, I do as Greater Good suggests, I cultivate awe, gratitude, and altruism.

“Certain emotions and behaviors that promote health and well-being can also foster a sense of purpose — specifically, awegratitude, and altruismSeveral studies conducted by the Greater Good Science Center’s Dacher Keltner have shown that the experience of awe makes us feel connected to something larger than ourselves — and so can provide the emotional foundation for a sense of purpose. Of course, awe all by itself won’t give you a purpose in life. It’s not enough to just feel like you’re a small part of something big; you also need to feel driven to make a positive impact on the world. That’s where gratitude and generosity come into play. “It may seem counterintuitive to foster purpose by cultivating a grateful mind-set, but it works,” writes psychologist Kendall Bronk, a leading expert on purpose. As research by William DamonRobert Emmons, and others has found, children and adults who are able to count their blessings are much more likely to try to “contribute to the world beyond themselves.” This is probably because, if we can see how others make our world a better place, we’ll be more motivated to give something back. Here we arrive at altruism. There’s little question, at this point, that helping others is associated with a meaningful, purposeful life. In one study, for example, Daryl Van Tongeren and colleagues found that people who engage in more altruistic behaviors, like volunteering or donating money, tend to have a greater sense of purpose in their lives.”

What I’ve come to realize at sixty years old is that finding my life purpose is a life-long journey. I can see that I need to pause and re-evaluate often, and sometimes I feel overwhelmed and that’s OK. But as I review Zukav’s quote as encouragement, I am reminded:

As I align my thoughts, emotions, and actions with the highest part of myself, then I am filled with enthusiasm, purpose and meaning; then my life feels rich and full; then I am joyously and intimately engaged with my world. Here I find the experience of authentic power … when my personality comes fully to serve the energy of my own soul, then I find authentic empowerment.

I’ll close this post with a wonderful interview with Gary Zukav entitled

Words of Wisdom – Defining Authentic Power

I’d love to hear about your search for purpose and finding authentic power.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Elastic Thinking

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
– Albert Einstein
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The world is changing so fast, the way we do things has changed so much in my lifetime, it’s hard to remember how we used to survive. I was talking to a friend who is in her 20s recently, and she asked me how we survived when we were travelling around the world in the 80s, without cell phones or internet. And I tried to remember . . . how did we survive? We had a Lonely Planet book and we talked to other travellers and we just winged it a lot! Somehow we survived without ever making a reservation or really having much of a plan at all. We just did it.

There is no argument that things are changing quickly, and it seems that many of us, especially those of us born well before cell phones and internet, are running just trying to keep up. But what I’ve noticed a lot lately is that some of us are adapting and learning more quickly than others. So I’ve been fascinated to read about some of the research about how these changes create new demands on how we must think in order to thrive in this era.

There is a fascinating article in Psychology Today, ‘Your Elastic Mind’, by Leonard Mlodinow, Ph.D., a theoretical physicist and the author of Elastic. In this article Mlodinow explains that there are certain talents, or qualities of thought that are now essential in these rapidly changing times. He gives us some examples:

“The capacity to let go of comfortable ideas and become accustomed to ambiguity and contradiction, the capability to rise above conventional mind-sets and reframe the questions we ask, the ability to abandon our ingrained assumptions and open ourselves to new paradigms, the propensity to rely on imagination as much as on logic and to generate and integrate a wide variety of ideas, and the willingness to experiment and be tolerant of failure. That’s a diverse bouquet of talents, but as psychologists and neuroscientists have elucidated the brain processes behind them, those talents have been revealed as different aspects of a coherent cognitive style. I call it elastic thinking.

Elastic thinking endows us with the ability to solve novel problems and overcome the neural and psychological barriers that can impede us from looking beyond the existing order. It’s important to understand how our brains produce elastic thinking, and how we can nurture it. In a large body of research one quality stands out above all the others—unlike analytical reasoning, elastic thinking arises from what scientists call “bottom-up” processes.”

In an interview in Scientific America, Mlodinow explains that:

“In my field, science, researchers are overwhelmed by something more constructive, the more than three million new journal articles each year. In personal technology, we must all learn to navigate a landscape in which the number of websites has been doubling every two to three years, and the way we use and access them is subject to frequent “disruptive change.” More importantly, social attitudes are changing just as fast—compare the pace of the civil rights movement to the speed at which the campaign for gay rights swept the developed world. Or look at the overnight rise of the “me too” movement.

The failure of businesses to adapt has led to the quick demise of countless companies, and major power shifts in industries from taxis to hospitality. But we must adapt to thrive in our personal lives, too. We have to be willing to rise above conventional mindsets, to reframe the questions we ask, to be open to new paradigms. We have to rely as much on our imagination as on logic, and have the ability to generate and integrate a wide variety of ideas, to welcome experiment, and be tolerant of failure. I call that manner of thought elastic thinking, in contrast to rational or logical thought.”

The way that this has shown up in my life recently has been the challenges that I have faced as I’ve embarked on a new adventure in my career, pushing me way outside my comfort zone. I’ve had to learn how to use new platforms for my New Online Workshop; had to learn new tools on You Tube and new ways to connect with people around the world. It has pushed me way beyond what I thought I could do, and my fear of failure and doing it wrong has been rampant.

I have absolutely had to practice what Mlodinow described:

‘I’ve had to ‘reframe the questions I ask; I’ve had to be open to new paradigms; have had to rely as much on my imagination as on logic, and I’ve had to generate and integrate a wide variety of ideas, to welcome experiment, and be very tolerant of failure!’

If this topic interests you, I encourage you to take the time to watch this very interesting ‘Talks at Google’ by Leonard Mlodinow – ‘Elastic Thinking in Times of Change.’

 

I’d love to hear about your elastic thinking skills.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Exciting Announcement! Interactive Online Workshop Series!

“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams”

– Oprah Winfrey 

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Hi Everyone –
I’m so excited to announce a new workshop series! In this interactive online workshop you will learn to:
  • Identify Limiting Beliefs and Move Beyond Them
  • Overcome Obstacles that Prevent You from Moving Forward
  • Move Toward Achieving Your Dreams and Living Your Best Life!

One of the first questions that people have is – What’s the cost?  The answer is simple – Whatever you want to pay. That’s right.  I want this workshop to be completely accessible to everyone that is interested, and I absolutely do not want money to be an obstacle.

This Workshop begins Tuesday May 29th at 6pm PDT
Sign up today to start your journey!
patti@thiswayupbook.com

Want more info?

 

Still have questions?

Please email me at:   patti@thiswayupbook.com

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Are We All Addicts?

“She goes from one addiction to another. All are ways for her to not feel her feelings.
– Ellen Burstyn 

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Are we all addicts?  Well perhaps not all of us, but I’d put forth that there are lots and lots of us!

Life has become so stressful for most of us, that it is almost impossible not to become addicted to something. In the most of the world, much of society not only encourages addiction, but almost demands it. Some addictions, such as workaholism, are actually applauded in our culture – while others, such as nicotine, TV, internet porn, gambling, and sex addiction, are simply tolerated. And I believe that women are pressured hugely to drink wine in most social gatherings.  Wine has become a staple in the “Girls’ Night Out.”  As this article in The Huffington Post points out – Women Have a Complicated Love Affair With Wine.

Anne Wilson Schaef, author of When Society Becomes An Addict,  explains:

“Often unknowingly the vast majority of us collude in a system that encourages addiction and co-dependence – and sees these states as normal. Many of us are addicted to chemicals, not only to alcohol or drugs but nicotine, caffeine, chocolate and overeating in general. Even more of us are involved in addictive processes: workaholism, gambling, compulsive shopping, sex, and so on. The realization of the extent of our addictions, both individually and as a society, is shocking.”

And this book was written before the internet took over as our number one addiction.  If we are using anything to not feel our feelings, and we do it consistently, it is argued, that we are in an addiction process.

In another article in The Huffington Post:

Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, author of Start Where You Are, agrees with Anne Wilson Schaef – we all are addicted to something. But she doesn’t blame it on American culture; she says it’s simply part and parcel of our human nature. Chodron explains that we are restless, irritable, and discontent – we find it impossible to just sit still and BE. So we distract ourselves with activity and entertainment: cell phones, texting, video games, iPods, TV, movies, magazines, non-stop busyness to keep us looking everywhere but inside ourselves. We mood-alter with substances (sugar, alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine, etc.) and activities (shopping, gambling, sex, work, viewing porn, etc.) Chodron says that we are unable to simply be awake and present to life – so we medicate our existential anxiety.

The article points out some sobering numbers regarding addiction in the US. But I’m sure many people will object to the use of the word addiction, but here is one way to decide for yourself (if you can get past the denial!)

 

Russell Brand describes the 12 steps of recovery from addiction in his book Recovery in a very in your face manner that may help some people see their own addiction.  Most people either love Brand or hate him, but I find this confronting, in your face description of addiction and the way out refreshing.

Here are Brand’s 12 Steps:

“Here is how I look at these steps now, and it’s how I invite you to look at them too. It certainly de-mystifies it. I’ve probably overcompensated with the ‘f ’ word, but my point is that this is a practical system that anyone can use.

1 Are you a bit fucked?

2 Could you not be fucked?

3 Are you, on your own, going to ‘unfuck’ yourself?

4 Write down all the things that are fucking you up or have ever fucked you up and don’t lie, or leave anything out.

5 Honestly tell someone trustworthy about how fucked you are.

6 Well that’s revealed a lot of fucked up patterns. Do you want to stop it? Seriously?

7 Are you willing to live in a new way that’s not all about you and your previous, fucked up stuff? You have to.

8 Prepare to apologize to everyone for everything affected by your being so fucked up.

9 Now apologize. Unless that would make things worse.

10 Watch out for fucked up thinking and behaviour and be honest when it happens.

11 Stay connected to your new perspective.

12 Look at life less selfishly, be nice to everyone, help people if you can.

 

For Step One, Are You A Bit Fucked?  Brand describes addiction simply and succinctly:

This is an invitation to change. This is complicated only in that most of us are quite divided, usually part of us wants to change a negative and punishing behaviour, whereas another part wants to hold on to it. For me Recovery is a journey from a lack of awareness to awareness.

A 5-point guide to the cycle of addiction:

1 Pain

2 Using an addictive agent, like alcohol, food, sex, work, dependent relationships to soothe and distract

3 Temporary anaesthesia or distraction

4 Consequences

5 Shame and guilt, leading to pain or low self-esteem . . . And off we go again.

 

I love the simplicity of that 5 point process.

If you can go through that 5 point process and honestly say nope not me, then consider yourself one of the lucky ones.  If not, there is hope in the steps mentioned above.

 

I’ll close this post appropriately with Brand’s own video of the 12 steps.  Enjoy!

I’d love to hear about your own recovery process, whatever that looks like.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Today I Choose Joy

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”

– Joseph Campbell 

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Today I shall choose Joy!

And so does Stu Krieger.  Will you join us?

 

 

Let me know your thoughts on how you choose joy each day.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Choose to Make Your Life Sacred

“Something opens our wings. Something makes boredom and hurt disappear. Someone fills the cup in front of us: We taste only sacredness.”

– Rumi 

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Today I choose to make my life sacred. By focusing on the beauty and the sacredness of life, I can move away from the fear and uncertainty.

“It feels good and right to lift our faces to the sunlight.  It feels good and right to follow our hearts. Something in all of us ignites when we live this way.”

Sarah Blondin takes us on a beautiful journey of making our life sacred in her podcast Live Awake. Blondin, the creator of Live Awake focuses on the sacredness of life in her podcasts.

“She decided after waking from what felt like years of sleep, that nature was responsible for loving her awake. She decided the earth breathed its grace up from the roots of her feet. The trees gathered together to give her grounded strength. She decided the wind carried loving whispers from the divine to her slumbering ears. She decided the sky showered her with wisdom and mirrored the boundless nature of every soul walking this earth.  She decided after waking from what felt like years of sleep, that she would live forevermore wide open to all that came to be in front of her. She decided that living awake was a choice, and in that moment she became free. And in that moment she chose to be the beam of light that reaches toward all other life, to be the beam that assists the earth in breathing and loving others awake.”

I invite you to listen to the podcast here, on Soundcloud, Make It Sacred. It’s a beautiful uplifting podcast. There are several Live Awake podcasts available on the wonderful free app –  Insight Timer.  There are hundreds of guided meditations by wonderful teachers available on this app.  I recommend it whole-heartedly.

I’ll close this post with another video from the Live Awake archives, Choosing Harmony.  It is a lovely way to spend nine minutes.

 

 

Let me know your thoughts on how you make your life sacred.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

What the Dying Can Teach Us About Living

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.”
– Leonardo da Vinci 

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Once again, I have so much to be grateful for, in terms of what my sons have taught me. This time, I am grateful that both of them pushed me to explore the wonders of podcasts. Of course I have listened to podcasts, I’ve even been interviewed on several, but it’s been a half-hearted effort. On their last trip home, over Christmas, they downloaded a podcast playing app and steered me in the direction of several podcasts that they enjoyed. And since then, I have been playing podcasts on every trip I take in my car. I’m hooked! Mind you, as most of you know that have been reading my blog for awhile,  I’m an addict at heart, so everything I do, I often overdo! But at this point, I’m loving it and it doesn’t seem to be doing me any harm.

The first podcast that my sons turned me on to was an interview with Frank Ostaseski on a podcast called Waking Up with Sam Harris. But Actually, Tara Brach is much more my style, so I then listened to her interview with Ostaseski on her podcast, Tara Talks.

I was so impacted that I bought Ostaseski’s book, The Five Invitations. A wonderful book that I highly recommend.

In an article in Daily Good, Ostaseski describes his journey:

“Over the past thirty years, as the co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project, people who were dying generously invited me into their most vulnerable moments. They made it possible for me to get up close and personal with death. In the process, they taught me how to live. I distilled their wisdom into five heart lessons for living fully and without regret.”

The message in the book has five invitations to us from what Ostaseski has learned from people dying.

1. Don’t Wait.

2. Welcome Everything; Push Away Nothing

3. Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience

4. Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things

5. Cultivate “Don’t Know” Mind

The idea of the first invitation, Don’t Wait, seems obvious. If you are dying, you can’t wait to do things, there is an immediacy to everything. But this has a message to all of us:

“This idea can both frighten and inspire us. Yet, embracing the truth of life’s precariousness helps us to appreciate its preciousness. We stop wasting our lives on meaningless activities. We learn to not hold our opinions, our desires, and even our own identities so tightly. Instead of pinning our hopes on a better future, we focus on the present and being grateful for what we have in front of us right now. We say, “I love you” more often. We become kinder, more compassionate and more forgiving.”

When I think about the second invitation, Push Away Nothing, that feels very hard. My logical mind says, but what about the horrible stuff? I don’t want to welcome the bad stuff. Ostaseski explains though:

“In welcoming everything, we don’t have to like what’s arising or necessarily agree with it, but we need to be willing to meet it, to learn from it. The word welcome confronts us; it asks us to temporarily suspend our usual rush to judgment and to be open, to what is showing up at our front door. To receive it in the spirit of hospitality. At the deepest level, this invitation is asking us to cultivate a kind of fearless receptivity.”

Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience is a good invitation for me. I often hold back thinking I have nothing to offer here, I don’t know how to deal with this. I believe if I can’t contribute some kind of knowing to something, then I should not contribute. I know this is from ego, that I want to look good if I’m going to contribute. But Ostaseski explains gently:

“We all like to look good. We long to be seen as capable, strong, intelligent, sensitive, spiritual, or at least well-adjusted. Few of us want to be known for our helplessness, fear, anger, or ignorance. Yet more than once I have found an “undesirable” aspect of myself — one about which I previously had felt ashamed — to be the very quality that allowed me to meet another person’s suffering with compassion instead of fear or pity. It is not only our expertise, but exploration of our own suffering that enables us to build an empathetic bridge and be of real assistance to others. To be whole, we need to include and connect all parts of ourselves. Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means no part left out.”

The fourth invitation, Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things, is a wonderful reminder for all of us I think. After listening to the podcast with Tara Brach, I downloaded another app to help remind me to find a place of rest in the middle of thing. The app, Insight Timer, has meditations on my phone to help me find rest in the middle of things, to remind me and aid me to rest.

“We often think of rest as something that will come to us when everything else in our lives is complete: At the end of the day, when we take a bath; once we go on holiday or get through all our to-do lists. We imagine that we can only find rest by changing our circumstances.”

 

And the fifth invitation, Cultivate “Don’t Know” Mind is a Zen flavored invite, one that describes a mind that’s open and receptive, one that is not limited by agendas, roles, and expectations.

“It is free to discover. When we are filled with knowing, when our mind is made up, it narrows our vision and limits our capacity to act. We only see what our knowing allows us to see. We don’t abandon our knowledge — it’s always there in the background should we need it — but we let go of fixed ideas. We let go of control. The night before my open-heart surgery, my 26-year-old son Gabe and I had a tender conversation. Our sharing was filled with reminiscing, kindness, and laughter. At one point, Gabe became quite serious and asked, “Dad, are you going to live through this surgery?” Now I love my son beyond words, and like any father, I wanted to reassure him that I would be just fine. I felt into my experience before answering. Then I heard myself say, “I’m not taking sides.” My answer surprised us both. What I meant was that I wasn’t taking sides with life or death. Either way, I trusted that everything would be okay. I don’t know where the words came from; they spilled from me without censorship. I wasn’t trying to appear sage or to be a good Buddhist. Yet we both were reassured by my response. I think it was because we knew we were in the presence of the truth spoken with love.”

These five invitations are a gift to all of us, supportive in our life. They invite us to continue to explore and understand what it means to be alive now; not just to cope with death, but to live. And I whole heartedly agree with Ostaseski, they are relevant guides to living with integrity. Yes, we need to live these invitations, to be truly understood, they need to be lived and realized through action. They indeed are “five invitations for you to be fully present for every aspect of your life.”

The conversation with Tara Brach and Frank Ostaseski is truly inspirational, and I invite you to take the time to watch it now.

 

Let me know your thoughts on these Five Invitations.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Practicing Conscious Gratitude

“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” 
― David Steindl-Rast

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In the Muppets’ Christmas Carol Movie, Kermit sings: “Tis the season to be jolly and joyous” . . . But what if you’re not feeling overly joyous? As we enter the holiday season this year, many people are feeling less than joyful. The political scene is grim and there is a lot to feel anxious and unhappy about. And for many, the idea of spending more time with family during the holidays does not fill the heart with glee. How you feel is your choice, daily. But if you want to feel more joy, not only this holiday season, but in general, there is an answer.

Science tells us that happiness and joy are things we can cultivate. Thanks to the advent of fMRI machines (functional magnetic resonance imaging), we can now watch our brains in real time and see which areas of the brain light up when we’re angry, frustrated, or joyful, and we can also watch the brain change depending on what we focus on. The idea that our brain architecture can change has been termed “neuroplasticity.”

We can literally rewire the neural pathways that regulate our emotions, thoughts, and reactions. This means we can create new neural pathways that lead us to compassion, gratitude, and joy instead of anxiety, fear, and anger. We can reprogram our brains’ automatic response with a conscious effort to build new pathways.

 

In a study done by The National Center for Biotechnology Information, Neural Correlates of Gratitude, it was found that gratitude can be a natural antidepressant. When we consciously focus on what we are grateful for, certain neural circuits are activated; when activated, an increase of dopamine and serotonin is produced, which is similar to how many antidepressants work.

Building new neural pathways may not come easily at first. A good analogy is bushwhacking through a jungle. Imagine trying to walk through a jungle in a dense rain forest. It requires a machete every step of the way to clear the path the first time through. After a few more times, you might lay down some stones to keep the path clear and eventually the path becomes a road and soon it becomes easily travelled. As you walk the path more and more, you continue to reinforce it and make it even stronger. Eventually, this new neural pathway becomes a habit.

To add to the strengthening of some pathways, our brain also has a way to ‘prune’ the pathways used less often. Scientists call this “use-dependent cortical reorganization,” meaning that we strengthen whichever neural pathways we use most often, and lose the ones we use the least. Hebb’s Lawstates “neurons that fire together, wire together.”

                    Neurons that fire together, wire together

 

So how do we do this? How do we create these new neural pathways and start to rewire our brain towards happiness, compassion, and joy? Many studieshave shown that cultivating gratitude, or practicing Conscious Gratitude, is the most powerful way to start building new pathways.

Seth Godin, best selling author, recently stated in an interview: “I think that gratitude is a profound choice. It is not just something that some people do. There is a way to look at life as either “have to” or a “get to”. There are all these things in life we could do because we have to do them, or there are things in life we do because we get to do them.”

Godin goes on to explain that this has nothing to do with the truth of what is going on in the world around you. It has to do with our narrative about what is going on.

Living life knowing you “get to” do something is better than constantly feeling like you have to. Godin poses the question: “What is the opposite of gratitude?” And he believes the opposite of gratitude is entitlement. “People who believe they are entitled to something, walk around expecting that the world owes them something, whereas the people who are grateful for something are eager to share that gratitude with others, and that lines up exactly with “have to” and “get to.”

So if we agree that being grateful can lead to joy, then how can we start feeling more grateful?

“Look closely and you will find that people are happy because they are grateful. The opposite of gratefulness is just taking everything for granted. ” ― David Steindl-Rast,

David Steindl-Rast, the highly-respected Benedictine monk, author and spiritual leader, explains his methodology for staying in a gratitude mindset in Anatomy of Gratitude:

“There is a very simple kind of methodology to it: stop, look, go. Most of us are caught up in schedules, and deadlines, and rushing around. And so the first thing is that we have to stop, because otherwise we are not really coming into this present moment at all. And we can’t even appreciate the opportunity that is given to us because we rush by. So stopping is the first thing … and finding something in that moment … I don’t speak of this moment as a ‘gift’, because you cannot be grateful for everything. You can’t be grateful for war, violence, domestic violence, or sickness, things like that. There are many things for which you cannot be grateful. But in every moment, you can be grateful. For instance, the opportunity to learn something from a very difficult experience. So opportunity is really the key when people ask, can you be grateful for everything? No, not for everything, but yes you can be grateful in every moment.”

Seth Godin believes that acting “as if” is underrated. “If you start acting as if you are grateful, you start feeling more grateful and you will become more grateful.”

Here are some things you can do right now to start practicing Conscious Gratitude:

1. Choose a time and focus on gratitude

Choose a specific time everyday where you will stop for a moment and focus on what you are grateful for in that particular moment.
I use 11:11. I have an alarm set on my phone to go off every day at 11:11. I stop whatever I’m doing (within reason- if I’m driving on a highway obviously I don’t stop) and I silently focus on what I am grateful for in that moment. Even if I’m stuck in traffic, I can be grateful for my car or a good sound system or enough money for gas to get me where I am going.

2. First thing in the morning, before your feet hit the floor, be grateful

Before you hop out of bed in the morning, take 30 seconds, (it really does not take more than that) to think about 3 things you are grateful for. This can be done silently in your head. Or better yet, if you have a partner that you share your bed with, ask each other to list those 3 things. It can be as simple as gratitude for a comfortable bed, a warm house, and a good nights sleep. It’s been shown that starting your day in gratitude positively impacts you for the rest of the day.

3. Start a Gratitude Journal

Choose a journal that you like the feel and the look of, and make sure that it is used solely for writing about things your are grateful for. How you write this is up to you; it can be as simple as list making. I like using colorful pens playing in my journal, but use what ever works for you. Make it a routine, try to write in it daily, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day.

4. Start new traditions in your family — like gratitude at meals

This may feel uncomfortable at first; but with time, the practice of going around the table and saying one thing you are grateful for that happened that day, can become a cherished family tradition. It’s a great conversation starter and a wonderful way to lift the energy at any meal time. Another tradition can be saying one thing you are grateful for before going off to sleep. If you have children, it is a wonderful way to end the day just before they go to sleep. Another tradition to reinforce gratitude in relationships is texting to a loved one in the middle of the day, one thing you appreciate about them. This works well with teens and couples with busy schedules.

So this holiday season, if you are hoping to embody Kermit’s words . . .

Tis the season to be jolly and joyous
With a burst of pleasure, we feel it arrive
Tis the season when the saints can employ us
To spread the news about peace and to keep love alive

. . . You can start by practicing gratitude consciously today. And if that doesn’t come naturally, start by ‘acting as if’ you are grateful. And pretty soon, what was once an act will become a habit.

 

I’ll close with a great interview with Brené Brown talking about Active Gratitude.

 

I’d love to hear how you practice conscious gratitude.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.