The Path to Well-Being . . . Yes you can get there from here!

“The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being.”
– Emma Goldman
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What do you want? No honestly, what do you really truly want in your one wild and precious life? to mis-quote Mary Oliver. Most studies show that happiness and well-being are at the top of this list. But that is often immediately followed by but I don’t know what to do to get there. The good news is that there is a path to well-being, and you can start travelling this path today.

 

Well-being is actually a skill that can be learned and practiced and improved. Well-being can be achieved by focusing on four main keys. One of my heroes that I’ve written about is Dr. Richard Davidson. Dr. Davidson is the founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and he has studied and discovered the four science-based keys to well-being.

Davidson explains that well-being is a skill and it boils down to four main attributes:

Resilience, Outlook, Attention and Generosity.

From his research, he and his colleagues have learned that:

Each of these four is rooted in neural circuits, and each of these neural circuits exhibits plasticity—so we know that if we exercise these circuits, they will strengthen. Practicing these four skills can provide the substrate for enduring change, which can help to promote higher levels of well-being in our lives.

1. Resilience

Yes it’s true ‘Shit Happens.’ It happens to all of us and we can’t always stop it or avoid it, but we can change the way we react to it. Davidson explains that:

Resilience is the rapidity with which we recover from adversity; some people recover slowly and other people recover more quickly. We know that individuals who show a more rapid recovery in certain key neural circuits have higher levels of well-being. They are protected in many ways from the adverse consequences of life’s slings and arrows.

Recent research that Davidson conducted at UW Madison asked whether resilience could be improved and if so, how. The good news is that answer is yes; resilience can be improved by regular practice of mindfulness meditation. … The bad news is that it takes thousands of hours of practice before you see real change. But hey, it can be done.

2. Outlook

The second key to well-being is one’s outlook on life. Davidson explains:

Outlook refers to the ability to see the positive in others, the ability to savor positive experiences, the ability to see another human being as a human being who has innate basic goodness.

The good news regarding outlook is that unlike resilience, research indicates that simple practices of lovingkindness and / or compassion meditation may alter this circuitry quite quickly.
There was a study done in 2013 where individuals who had never meditated before were randomly assigned to one of two groups.

One group received a secular form of compassion training and the other received cognitive reappraisal training, an emotion-regulation strategy that comes from cognitive therapy. We scanned people’s brains before and after two weeks of training, and we found that in the compassion group, brain circuits that are important for this positive outlook were strengthened. After just seven hours—30 minutes of practice a day for two weeks—we not only saw changes in the brain, but these changes also predicted kind and helpful behavior.

3. Attention

The third key to well-being is paying attention. Research has shown that most people do not pay close attention to what they’re doing about forty-seven percent of the time. The quality of attention that you pay to what you are doing is vital.

William James in The Principals of Psychology explains that:

The ability to voluntarily bring back a wandering attention over and over again is the very root of judgment, character, and will. An education that sharpens attention would be education par excellence.

Davidson explains that educating attention can be done through a contemplative practice.

4. Generosity

It is well known now that when individuals engage in generous and altruistic behavior, they actually activate circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being. Davidson believes that:

Human beings come into the world with innate, basic goodness. When we engage in practices that are designed to cultivate kindness and compassion, we’re not actually creating something de novo—we’re not actually creating something that didn’t already exist. What we’re doing is recognizing, strengthening, and nurturing a quality that was there from the outset.

In addition to the four keys that Davidson outlines, science has also shown that gratitude hugely increases our feelings of well-being. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It magnifies positive emotions. With gratitude, we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators. You can become more responsible for creating more well-being in your life by the simple act of being grateful for what you are experiencing in this present moment.

By practicing gratitude and focusing on these four keys, Davidson assures us that:

Our brains are constantly being shaped wittingly or unwittingly—most of the time unwittingly. Through the intentional shaping of our minds, we can shape our brains in ways that would enable these four fundamental constituents of well-being to be strengthened. In that way, we can take responsibility for our own minds.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, no one explains it better than Dr. Richie Davidson himself!

I’d love to know if you have found that a meditation practice impacts your well-being.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.

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Altruism – Why it’s so good to do good

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr
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It’s true that we are hard-wired toward negativity, that we have a ‘built-in negativity bias.’ Rick Hanson explains that as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots. That’s because — in the tough environments in which our ancestors lived — if they missed out on a carrot, they usually had a shot at another one later on. But if they failed to avoid a stick — a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species — then there may be no more chances to pass on their genes.

However, studies have also shown that we are hard-wired for empathy and altruism as well. This is because cooperative behaviour worked on our behalf and helped our ancestors to survive under harsh conditions. So we reap psychological and physiological benefits when we practice altruism, when we do good things for others. In other words, doing good is good for you.

First of all, what exactly is altruism? It is defined as:

A voluntary, sometimes costly behaviour motivated by the desire to help another individual; a selfless act intended to benefit only the other.

So why would we do something that is of no benefit to ourselves?

Karen Salmansohn explains it like this:

Altruism raises your mood because it raises your self-esteem, which increases happiness. Plus, giving to others gets you outside of yourself and distracts you from your problems.

Here are a few good reasons to practice altruism:

It promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness

Giving to and helping other people releases endorphins, which then activate parts of our brain that are associated with trust, pleasure and social connection. This chemical reaction in the brain increases the chance that we will be altruistic and do good deeds in the future, thus creating a positive feedback loop of generosity and happiness.

It brings a sense of belonging and reduces isolation

Being a part of a positive charitable social network leads to feelings of belonging and lessens isolation.

It helps to keep things in perspective

Helping others, especially those who are less fortunate, can provide a sense of perspective, enabling us to stop focusing on what we may feel is missing in our own life.

It reduces stress and improves our health

Evidence suggests that helping others can boost our health. Compassion has been shown to help stabilise the immune system against immunosuppressing effects of stress. Altruistic acts may also stimulate the brain to release endorphins, which are powerful natural painkillers. One study found that participating in charitable activities can be better for our health than lowering cholesterol or stopping smoking

It helps reduce negative feelings

People who are altruistic tend to see life as more meaningful. Altruism is associated with better marital relationships, increased physical health, and enhanced self-esteem. Acts of altruism decrease feelings of hopelessness and decrease depression. It may also neutralise negative emotions that affect immune, endocrine and cardiovascular function.

It may actually help us live longer

Helping others has actually been shown to increase our life span. Studies on older people show that those who give support to others live longer than those who don’t.

Quite simply, altruism feels good and is good for you. When you help others, it promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness. So although it is true that we are hard-wired to notice the negative, we are also hard-wired toward compassion and altruism. So the next time you have a choice between acting from fear or acting from caring and compassion, choose the latter, it’s better for you in every way.

I’ll close with a wonderful TED Talk by Abigail Marsh entitled: Why Some People Are More Altruistic Than Others.

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

Forgiving Myself and Others . . . Why Bother?

Forgiveness will not be possible until compassion is born in your heart.”

—Thich Nhat Hanh

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I recently had a rather intense conversation about forgiveness with a friend. She was adamant that there are some people that do not deserve forgiveness, ever. She went on to say that serial rapists and pedophiles do not deserve forgiveness period. And although there is very compelling evidence that forgiveness is good for the person who forgives, we came to an impasse.

I think 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.

It took years of therapy to be able to forgive my mother. I was convinced she did not deserve forgiveness. She chose alcohol over her own children, dying and leaving me motherless at the tender age of 16. But when I finally reached a place of letting it go, it was so liberating! I felt lighter and more energized than I had in my entire life. Forgiveness is so freeing. It loosens the knot in my stomach that comes from resentment and anger at another person.

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.”

Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. And studies have shown that forgiveness can lead to better relationships; greater psychological well-being; less stress; lower blood pressure; fewer symptoms of depression and a stronger immune system. Just to name a few of the health benefits.

But as we all know, it’s a helluva lot easier said than done. 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.

One of the best ways I can get myself to a place of forgiveness when I’m feeling stuck is to journal. I write pages and pages about why I’m angry and resentful and hurt. I write until it’s all out. And then I usually talk about it, and occasionally even write an article about it about because as Anne Lamott tells us:

Now you get to tell it, because then it will become medicine – that we evolve; that life is stunning, wild, gorgeous, weird, brutal, hilarious and full of grace. That our parents were a bit insane, and that healing from this is taking a little bit longer than we had hoped. Tell it.

I’d like to close with a beautiful meditation on forgiveness with Jack Kornfield.

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

May’s News

“Within all of us is a divine capacity to manifest and attract all that we need and desire.”
– Wayne Dyer 

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In case you missed our May Newsletter . . .

How Can You Manifest Change in Your Life?

… It’s easier than you imagine …


I receive lots of inquiries from people asking how I got my book published.  I usually respond glibly, “Tenacity!” And that was certainly one aspect of the process.

But the truth is that I practiced what I preached in my book and focused a lot of energy and belief on the energy of getting my book out there. In my opinion, this is how one sets out to manifest what they are focusing on. I explored this in a recent article on Thrive Global.

I believe, after reading books by Deepak Chopra and a myriad of other authors, that everything is energy. And that belief shapes everything else. Each energy has a specific vibration, as Esther Hicks/Abraham explains. And we must be “on the same frequency,” to use a common metaphor, to be in alignment. Once this alignment is met, things start to happen. If the vibration is high, as in joy and gratitude, you start experiencing more joy and gratitude, and more things that bring you joy and gratitude start to come your way.

The trick is to start feeling that joy and gratitude now. It’s a bit of a conundrum, but honestly it is joy and gratitude that bring more joy and gratitude.

My approach: act as if you already have your dream. Look for the good in things you experience, try to live in joy as much as possible. Start every day with gratitude. Before you even get out of bed, focus on what you are grateful for. Choose three things every morning. Write them down in a journal if you have the time and the space. If that feels too hard, then just say it in your mind: feel the gratitude of having a warm bed, of knowing you can take a hot shower, of having food in your fridge. Focus your gratitude on what you already have in your life; this will impact your entire day.

As you think about that big goal, act as if it is already yours. Be in your life as if that goal is already there. Feel the joy of it.

After all, ultimately aren’t we all searching for more joy?

If you want to read more about this, check out the whole article on my blog.

PS: For those of you who may still be wondering about the perfect gift for Mother’s Day, or for your mother any day … look no further!  If your own mother or another mother you love likes Julia Cameron, Brené Brown or Annie Lamott (or all three), then This Way Up is a great gift!
Buy Your Mother’s Gift Here

 

Upcoming Summit: You’re Invited!

Reinventing You Summit

This summit will be live May 21 to May 31.  I’m so excited to share this summit with you!  The summit is hosted by my friend Naomi Sodomin. Naomi is the international best-selling author of Embrace the Mirror: Vision of Abundance and a Stronger You. And an all around inspirational woman.

 

If the path you’re on right now doesn’t light you up … if it doesn’t make you love your life, then it’s simple: you have to change it. Why wait to start a new journey, when the opportunity to begin that journey is right here? Join me and 20 other experts for the Reinventing You summit.

Register Today!

This Way Up Will Soon Be an Audio Book!

This Way Up is being made into an audio book! (I know, I know, I’ve been saying this for months! But we are in the final stages now … so close!) When it is finally ready, it will be available on my Amazon page and I will send a special link for the book in my newsletter. I can’t wait to share this new version of the book with you!

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

“Release any expectations you may have of how you think your dreams will come true but by all means, with every fiber of your being, expect that they will, as you busy yourself enjoying who and where you already are.”

~ Mike Dooley

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

April News

“Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”
– Mother Teresa 

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In case you missed our April Newsletter . . .

Let’s be like Velcro for joyful experiences …
View this email in your browser

Welcome to This Way Up!

Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more on making joy stickier, news about upcoming summits, and updates about the This Way Up Audio Book! You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.

If Joy Is a Choice … How Can We Make It Stick?

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

Joy is always a subject I like to write about. Recently I’ve found joy in listening to anything by Tara Brach, so it’s fitting that I should start this newsletter about joy with Tara Brach’s description. She describes joy as the aliveness and openness that occurs when we let ourselves be available to the whole play of existence. It’s a natural capacity, it’s in our wiring, and it can be cultivated.

Joy comes from a habit of thinking and interacts closely with our biochemistry. I explored this in a recent article on Thrive Global.

We sustain a joy “set point” based on what we think about and focus on. Deepak Chopra explains that when you activate a positive belief, your cells get the message.

One way to cultivate joy is through gratitude. Studies have shown that gratitude changes the body-mind chemistry. So when you have an experience and you feel good because of that experience, take time and allow yourself to feel good; pause and let it sink in. To use the language of technology: install it.

Rick Hanson suggests that we try to take in the good and make it stick. He explains that in order to create the trait , we must make it “stickier.” Taking that time to pause gives joy (or any experience) this stickiness. He explains:

“Scientists believe that your brain has a built-in negativity bias. In other words, as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots. That’s because, in the tough environments in which our ancestors lived, if they missed out on a carrot, they usually had a shot at another one later on. But if they failed to avoid a stick, a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species—Wham, no more chances to pass on their genes.

“The negativity bias shows up in lots of ways. For example, studies have found that:

  1. In a relationship, it typically takes five good interactions to make up for a single bad one.
  2. People will work much harder to avoid losing $100 than they will work to gain the same amount of money.
  3. Painful experiences are much more memorable than pleasurable ones.”

In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. That shades implicit memory—your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood—in an increasingly negative direction.”

You can read more about this and watch Tara Brach’s wonderful meditation about Joy on my latest blog post.

PS: Speaking of joy, it was with extreme joy that I discovered that people who bought books by Julia Cameron, Brené Brown and Anne Lamott also bought my book, This Way Up. What an affirmation!

Recent Podcast: Homework to Happiness

I had the pleasure recently to be featured on a wonderful podcast: Homework to Happiness with Sarah Jordan. We talked about an array of topics but of course really focused on happiness: what it is, its benefits, and how we tend to block it. You can listen to the podcast here:

You can find that podcast and other past podcasts and interviews on my website, on the media tab, under interviews.

Upcoming Summits: You’re Invited!

I am really excited to be participating in two upcoming summits:

Live Your Layered Life Summit

Live online now. Discover the secrets to self-care in your mind, body, and home! This summit is hosted by my friend Suzanne Choplin. It’s packed with great information and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Learn more and join the event.

Reinventing You Summit

This summit will be live from May 21-31. Watch this space for more information. The second summit is with my friend Naomi Sodomin. Naomi is the international best-selling author of Embrace the Mirror: Vision of Abundance and a Stronger You. And an incredibly all-around inspirational woman.

The summit will include information like:

  • Illuminating your greatest fears (aka blocks) – so you can finally move past them.
  • Identifying and overcoming challenges that are keeping you from taking action on the things that are important to you.
  • Getting clear on what it is you want to create, so that you can take those first steps, now!
  • And much more.

Learn more and join the event.

This Way Up Will Soon Be an Audio Book!

This Way Up is being made into an audio book! (Yes, the process is taking longer than I thought it would.) When it is ready, it will be available on my Amazon pageand I will send a special link for the book in my newsletter. I can’t wait to share this new version of the book with you!

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

Five Invitations

“I have come to know that death is an important thing to keep in mind – not to complain or to make melancholy, but simply because only with the honest knowledge that one day I will die can I ever truly begin to live.”

– R.A. Salvatore 

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For those of you who missed my last newsletter, I’m posting it here.  There are links to articles and lots of exciting news about upcoming events.  If you want to sign up for my newsletter, you can sign up here – under ‘Stay Inspired.’ 

 

Welcome to This Way Up!

Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more on what death has to teach us about living life, news about upcoming summits, and updates about the This Way Up Audio Book! You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.

What Can the Dying Teach Us if We Are Willing to Listen?

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

Once again I have so much to be grateful for in what my sons teach me. This time, I am grateful for both of them pushing 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, they downloaded a podcast app and steered me to several podcasts they enjoyed. Since then, I have been playing podcasts on every trip in my car. I’m hooked! Mind you, as most of you know, 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, a leader in the field of hospice and end-of-life care, 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 affected that I bought Ostaseski’s book, The Five Invitations.

I explored this concept, learning about life by listening to the dying, in my latest article on Thrive Global. The message in the book has five invitations to us based on what Ostaseski has learned from people who are 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

Don’t Wait. The idea of the first invitation 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.”

Push Away Nothing. When I think about the second invitation, 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 or I don’t know how to deal with this. I believe if I can’t contribute some kind of knowledge 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.”

Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things. The fourth invitation 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 a busy time.  The app, Insight Timer, has meditations on my phone to remind me and aid me in resting.

Cultivate “Don’t Know” Mind. The fifth invitation 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.”

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. 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.”

If you are interested in this topic, I encourage you to watch the conversation between Tara Brach and Frank Ostaseski. It is enlightening and inspiring!

Upcoming Summits: You’re Invited!

I am so excited to be participating in two events in March.  Each summit or master class is completely free and full of amazing information from a host of experts.

Authenticity Is Power: Get out of your own way and into success, by being yourself always!

Live online now.

Learn more and join the event.

Reclaim Your Life: Get Clear, Simplify and Do Something Worthwhile

Going live March 12.

Learn more and join the event.

This Way Up Will Soon Be an Audio Book!

This Way Up is being made into an audio book! The book is being narrated by the fantastic character actress, Janice Kent. When it is ready, it will be available on my Amazon page and I will send a special link for the book in my newsletter. I can’t wait to share this new version of the book with you!

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
 

 I’d like to close this post with a guided meditation by Tara Brach called Opening and Calming.  It is well worth the watch/listen.  It is soothing and calming.

 

Thank you for being part of this movement. Watch this space for more in the months ahead.  Stay informed about all of my upcoming events.  Sign up for my newsletter here.

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.

Let’s Talk about Love . . .

“He who plants kindness gathers love.”

– St. Basil 

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For those of you who missed my last newsletter, I’m posting it here.  There are links to articles and lots of exciting news about upcoming events.  If you want to sign up for my newsletter, you can sign up here – under ‘Stay Inspired.’ 

 

Is love really all you need?
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Welcome to This Way Up!

Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more on clinging to a flawed definition of love, news about upcoming summits, and updates about the This Way Up Audio Book! You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.

Is Love All You Need? Not Really.

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.” ~ Mary Oliver

I was sitting in the seat of the car, looking out the window, pouting. The day was not going as I had planned it in my head. He should have known! He must have known how I wanted it to be. After all, we were married and he should know … he should be able to read my mind …

Lennon and McCartney tell us that “love is all you need.” But in the case of romantic love, is that true? Plenty of research and lived experience tells us: no, it’s not. Alain de Botton describes why we created and still live by the inaccurate, and often disastrous image of romantic love in his NYT article: “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.”

I explored the concept that we are clinging to a flawed definition of romantic love in my latest article on Thrive Global.

The idea of romantic love tells us that we all have a soul mate out there, that it is our task to find our one true soul mate, and we will know when we find him or her because we will have a very special feeling. Botton describes this search for romantic love in his very entertaining talk “On Love” from The School of Life. You can watch this insightful talk here.

We are led to believe that when we find our soul mate, we will never be lonely again, that person will understand us completely and practically be able to read our mind. (Flashback to me in the car pouting.) We will feel completely understood and loved. This love shall be one long romantic holiday …

Anyone who has experienced a romantic relationship knows that this logic is flawed in so many ways!

For a relationship to last, we need more than that outdated version of romantic love. So what do we need to make a lasting and happy relationship? Well for one thing, we definitely need good communication. The day out with my husband would have turned out a lot differently if I had communicated my vision for the day instead of assuming that he should “just know.”

But aside from good communication, science is showing us that lasting relationships come down to two things: kindness and generosity.

In Atlantic magazine’s article “Masters of Love,” psychologists John and Julie Gottman describe their work. Together they have studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. From the data they gathered, they were able to separate the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages. Read more about this on my blog post.

Ultimately, if we are looking to live happily ever after together, we need to ditch the antiquated idea of romantic love and move forward in the spirit of kindness and generosity.

Upcoming Summits: You’re Invited!

I am so excited to be participating in several events in February and March.  Each summit or master class is completely free and full of amazing information from a host of experts.

Great Health Now: Reverse Aging, Feel Confident in Your Body and Have Fun Again!

Live now.

Learn more and join the event.

Ignite Your Creative Power

Live now. 

Free master class series where you will discover how to get unstuck, expand your vision and live your greater potential. This intimate, high-value, high-profile master class series wil explore the topic of the unlimited creative power of women to help them activate and realize their deepest desires and dreams.

Learn more and join the event.

Authenticity Is Power: Get out of your own way and into success, by being yourself always!

Going live February 27.

Learn more and join the event.

Reclaim Your Life: Get Clear, Simplify and Do Something Worthwhile

Going live March 12.

Learn more and join the event.

This Way Up Will Soon Be an Audio Book!

This Way Up is being made into an audio book! The book is being narrated by the fantastic character actress, Janice Kent. When it is ready, it will be available on my Amazon page and I will send a special link for the book in my newsletter. I can’t wait to share this new version of the book with you!

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

“Communication to a relationship is like oxygen to life. Without it … it dies!”
~ Tony Gaskins

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

Is Love All You Need?

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”
― Anaïs Nin

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I was sitting in the seat of the car, looking out the window, pouting. The day was not going as I had planned it in my head. He should have known! He must have known how I wanted it to be, after all we were married and he should know . . . he should be able to read my mind . . .

Lennon and McCartney tell us that Love is All You Need. But in the case of romantic love, is that true?

Alain de Botton describes why we created and still live by the inaccurate, and often disastrous image of romantic love in his NYT article: “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.”

In the past, people married for practical reasons, but in the 1800s, we replaced practicality with the romantic version of love:

“For most of recorded history, people married for logical sorts of reasons: because her parcel of land adjoined yours, his family had a flourishing business, her father was the magistrate in town, there was a castle to keep up, or both sets of parents subscribed to the same interpretation of a holy text. And from such reasonable marriages, there flowed loneliness, infidelity, abuse, hardness of heart and screams heard through the nursery doors. The marriage of reason was not, in hindsight, reasonable at all; it was often expedient, narrow-minded, snobbish and exploitative. That is why what has replaced it — the marriage of feeling — has largely been spared the need to account for itself.”

Romantic Love tells us that we all have a soul mate out there and it is our task to find our one true soul mate, and we will know when we find him or her because we will have that very special feeling. Botton describes this search for romantic love in his very entertaining talk “On Love” from ‘The School of Life.’

We are led to believe that when we find our soul mate, we will never be lonely again, that person will understand us completely and practically be able to read our mind. (flashback to me in the car pouting) We will feel completely understood and loved. This love shall be one long romantic holiday . . .

 

The reality is though that what we are looking for when we fall in love is familiarity. We are not necessarily drawn to people who will make us happy, we are drawn to people who will feel familiar.

“What we really seek is familiarity — which may well complicate any plans we might have had for happiness. We are looking to recreate, within our adult relationships, the feelings we knew so well in childhood. The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes. How logical, then, that we should as grown-ups find ourselves rejecting certain candidates for marriage not because they are wrong but because they are too right — too balanced, mature, understanding and reliable — given that in our hearts, such rightness feels foreign. We marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.”

Botton adds:

“The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”

For a relationship to last, we need more than that out-dated version of romantic love. So what do we need to make a lasting relationship? Well for one thing, we definitely need good communication. The day out with my husband would have turned out a lot differently if I had communicated my vision for the day instead of assuming that my husband should just know.

But aside from good communication, science is showing us that lasting relationships come down to two things: kindness and generosity.

In Atlantic Magazine’s article ‘Masters of Love’, psychologists John and Julie Gottman describe their work. Together they have studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. From the data they gathered, they were able to separate the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages.

The masters felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. Whereas the disasters were in a state of ‘fight or flight’ even when they were not fighting. It’s not that the masters had a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

“Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird. The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that. People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper.”

Gottman explains that masters have a habit of mind in which they scan the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes. And it’s not just scanning the environment, it’s also scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or wrong; criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.

The Gottmans have found that contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them will eventually kill the love in the relationship. On the other hand, kindness glues couples together. Kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated. Kindness makes us feel loved.

So if we are looking to live happily ever after together, we need to ditch the antiquated version of romantic love and move forward in the spirit of kindness and generosity.

I’d like to close this post with the video by Alaine de Botton that I mentioned above.  It is well worth the watch, both amusing and insightful.

 

Let me know your thoughts on romantic love and what makes a relationship withstand the test of time.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Living Intentionally in 2018

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’

– Mary Oliver

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Are you a New Year’s Resolution kind of person? Do you set new goals and resolutions at the beginning of each year.  I explored this concept in my latest Thrive Global article.

I usually tend to be a goal-setter in the beginning of each year, sitting down quite purposely to set my goals as the new year unfolds. This year however, I decided to try something different and focus on intentions rather than goals.

Admittedly, goals are important, but I know personally that I can become much too goal-oriented and forget to be present in the moment. I have found that living intentionally is more peaceful and fulfilling than living in a goal-obsessed way.

Being more intentional helps me to focus on how I want to be in any given moment, no matter what else is going on around me. By focusing on my intentions, I am better able to stay centered; I don’t get as caught up in the roller coaster of whether I am getting things done and if I’m doing them ‘right’. It helps me to enjoy the journey and not get lost in getting to the destination.

David Emerald, author of TED — The Empowerment Dynamic, beautifully describes the differences between goals and intentions:

Goals are focused on the future. Intentions are in the present moment.

Goals are a destination or specific achievement. Intentions are lived each day, independent of reaching the goal or destination.

Goals are external achievements. Intentions are your inner-relationships with yourself and others.

As I thought about this new focus, I received an email from my publicist, Joanne McCall. In her email, she quoted Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, and put forth 5 questions:

 1. If you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do and why?
2. How would the world be different without you?
3. What values do you stand for and what is worth fighting for?
4. What five words would you want written on your headstone?
5. What will you do this year that is worthy of future memory?

The timing was perfect. I got out my journal and wrote; focusing not on what I

wanted to achieve, but rather on what I feel most passionate about; about my values rather than what I wanted to accomplish. These questions helped me focus on ideas that excite my spirit.

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”
— Oprah Winfrey

So what will Living Intentionally look like for me?

1. Being quiet and focusing inward, checking in on how I feel rather than what I need to do.

What do I need, how do I feel? Focus in, don’t just react to what I should be doing, or what others expect me to do.

2. Trying to understand why

Look at what I’m doing and ask myself why I’m doing it. Ask myself what my intention is for each activity. Am I doing things out of obligation or love? When I understand my intention, it will help me do things with more joy and hopefully less fear.

3. Trying to live in flow rather than reaction

Finding flow is not always easy, it takes space and is usually intuitive. My intuition always guides me better than trying to reason my way, or worse, react my way through life. When I am in flow, life feels spacious and creative.

4. Moving away from micro-managing my life

When I’m feeling stressed and fearful, I tend to micro-manage my life (and often other people’s lives as well!) When I’m in flow and not trying to control, I can relax and not spend my time trying to figure out every detail. When I can move into a place of flow, I am so much more creative and open, and life just seems to go better.

 

So as 2018 unfolds, I invite you to take time to think about your intentions. Perhaps grab your journal and write about Rabbi Cohen’s five questions. Give yourself the space to listen to the call of your spirit.

“Respond to every call that excites your spirit.”
— Rumi

I’ll close with a wonderful video about The Power of Intention by the incomparable Deepak Chopra.

I’d love to hear about your goals and intentions for the new year.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.