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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

The Excitement of Possibilities!

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
― Gloria Steinem

The excitement of possibilities.  What a wonderful turn of phrase. And so true!

The excitement of planning often creates more happiness than the event itself.  In a recent study in Applied Research in Quality of Life, it was discovered that people are usually happiest planning events, in anticipation. This particular study, quoted in The New York Times found that:

There is a definite connection between anticipation and happiness. The authors of the study, researchers from the Netherlands, interviewed more than 1,500 people, including 974 vacationers, and found that the vacationers felt most happy before their trips.

I believe that that is because of the excitement of possibilities.  And I agree with Gloria Steinem (or course I do!) that dreaming is absolutely a form of planning! And at the moment I am awash in this excitement.  I am planning and dreaming and planning some more.  I am in the process of planning the roll out of my national book tour here in NZ.  It’s very exciting.  Working closely with my brilliant publicist, Sarah Sparks of Markom PR. We have dates set for several venues in Thames and around the Coromandel Peninsula, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, and many points between. Such an exciting time doing all this planning and anticipating . . . once I’m on the road and going full steam ahead some of that excitement may wane, but for now, the dreaming and planning is joyful!

 

For those of you interested in receiving updates via newsletter, please visit my website: thiswayupbook.com and sign up!

I’d love to hear about your experience around the excitement of possibilities. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

The End of the US Book Tour

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
― Alexander Graham Bell

As I get read to leave the US and head back to NZ, I am am filled with so many emotions.  Humbled at how incredibly powerful the whole trip was and how much love was shared with me.  So very grateful that I had this amazing opportunity. Sad to say good-bye to family and friends here in the US. But so very happy and excited to see my sons and my friends back in NZ.  So many emotions all at once.

I decided to make a video about this, rather than write about it this time. Feeling inspired!

 

 

I’d love to hear how you handle it as one door closes, often waiting for the next one to open. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Getting Inspiration through Creativity

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

― Joseph Chilton Pearce

I love that quote by Joseph Chilton Pearce. And I’m feeling that a lot at the moment – having to lose that fear – as I see my own stuff out there. This book tour, the interviews, the articles, have forced me to get over that fear of being wrong.  I have to be so out there, so transparent. I have nowhere to hide!

In my latest interview with Sally Hubbard, I talk about getting creative and getting into flow to find our inspiration.

“Being creative is much easier than trying to meditate or spend time just being quiet. Then they get their inspiration and their connection to self and they can be in that flow and get their ideas, their inspiration, their juices flowing.”

I’m going to make this post a bit different – this time instead of writing the post, I will attach a podcast.  The podcast is an interview with Sally Hubbard, creator of Women Killing It!

Women Killing It!

Let me know what you thought of the podcast; and I’d love to hear how you lose that fear of being wrong. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Creative Positive Reframing

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
― Voltaire

Creative Positive Reframing:  Taking limiting beliefs and creatively transforming them so that they become supportive rather than destructive.

This is what I am calling the process that I outline in my book – This Way Up.  So today, the second of August, 2016, I’m letting all of my readers know that Creative Positive Reframing is now *named! (*kinda trademarked, if you will)

The process involves several steps, but one of the central points is the use of questions. We are often advised to use affirmations when we are trying to rid ourselves of a bad habit or in getting out of a negative thought spiral. And it’s a wonderful, helpful tool. However, sometimes if we are using affirmations that do not feel real to us, our brain rejects it, and challenges us on it. For example, if I am struggling to save enough money to buy a car, and I say to myself, ‘I am wealthy and have plenty of money for a new car’, my head will say, ‘that’s not true’ – and then my brain will work to prove that I am wrong.  Affirmations sometimes work brilliantly, but sometimes they don’t; and if they don’t seem to be working on certain problems, there is a body of research that shows that the use of questions instead of affirmations works very effectively. Questions spark the brain’s tendency to work to solve problems. Ask a question and your brain will toil to find an answer, so that your brain is working with you, instead of against you.

I read a great article in Daily Good the other day called Living by Questions.  In it, poet Jane Hirshfield explains:

To ask a good question is a way to carabiner yourself to intimacy, a doorknob that turns only one direction, toward open. A good question can send you on a long journey in rain and cold. It can terrify, bringing you straight into your own fears, whether of heights or of loss or of all the mysteries that never go away—our own vulnerability, the heart’s utter exposure, the capriciousness and fragility of events, of relationships, of existence.

In times of darkness and direness, a good question can become a safety rope between you and your own sense of selfhood: A person who asks a question is not wholly undone by events. She is there to face them, to meet them. If you’re asking a question, you still believe in a future. And in times that are placid and easy, a good question is a preventive against sleepwalking, a way to keep present the awakening question that’s under all other questions: “What else, what more?”

What a stunning description, so, well, poetic!

I will go into more deteail about Creative Positive Reframing in future posts. But for now, I’d like to close with a TED talk – ‘How to Ask Good Questions.’

 

I’d love to hear what you think about the name I’ve chosen for my process – ‘Creative Positive Reframing.’ And any thoughts you have about the use of questions.  And as always thanks for stopping by, 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.

 

Visualization on Love and Compassion

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

– Mother Teresa


Do you consider yourself a loving and compassionate person?  Are you able to show love and charity and compassion towards your neighbors? And if so, are you practicing this same love and compassion on yourself. Most of us, especially the women among us, find it difficult to be very loving toward ourselves.

Lucille Ball famously said – Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.

I believe we do have to love ourselves first, be filled up with love, in order to let love flow. And when we are filled up, then let it flow; flow freely and copiously, because love and compassion are not luxuries, but necessities:

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries, without them humanity cannot survive

-Dalai Lama

I’d like to share one of my favorite visualizations with you today.

 

Do it today, do it everyday . . . Love the Earth, Love Your Neighbors, Love Yourself . . .

 

 

I would love to hear any feedback about how this visualization was for you;  I always love hearing about people’s experience with creative visualization.  And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.