If you want to be more compassionate, set better boundaries

“Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”

― Brené Brown

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God I love Brené Brown! She’s sassy and funny and smart. And 23 years clean and sober to top it all off. During a recent interview, Brené Brown and Russel Brand discussed sobriety, vulnerability and compassion among other things. And one of the things that surprised me most was what her research taught her about compassion. When she asked Russel what he thought the most compassionate people had common, I paused the video, I wanted to guess. I guessed empathy, self-love, self-compassion — that all made sense to me. But her research showed that when they analysed the data about what the most compassionate people that they had interviewed had in common, there was one variable that they shared:

Boundaries of steel.

Very compassionate people who were interviewed repeatedly said:

I’m compassionate because I do not subject myself to the abuse of other people.

From this research, Brown and her colleagues developed the idea of BIG:

“What Boundaries need to be in place so that I can be in my Integrity and be Generous toward you”

Wow — I don’t know about you, but from a young age, I learned to people-please; I learned to say yes even when I didn’t want to do something; I learned to smile and laugh things off even when they hurt; I learned to ‘go with the flow and not make waves and get along with people.’ I certainly did not learn to say no.

Most of us who grew up in chaotic and abusive homes learned to survive and/or escape by doing whatever it took, I learned to be a people pleaser and to numb the pain of losing myself.

“We do that by numbing the pain with whatever provides the quickest relief. We can take the edge off emotional pain with a whole bunch of stuff, including alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, affairs, religion, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the Internet. And just so we don’t miss it in this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us. We fill every ounce of white space with something so there’s no room or time for emotion to make itself known.” — Brené Brown

It was only when the pain got too much and the numbing out didn’t work anymore that I started to do my own work and learn about boundaries. I learned about boundaries in recovery rooms and in therapy rooms and by reading a lot of books!

Brené Brown’s books have all been instrumental in my healing journey. I love her Ten Guideposts for Whole Hearted Living from Rising Strong:

1. Cultivating authenticity: letting go of what people think

2. Cultivating self-compassion: letting go of perfectionism

3. Cultivating a resilient spirit: letting go of numbing and powerlessness

4. Cultivating gratitude and joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark

5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith: letting go of the need for certainty

6. Cultivating creativity: letting go of comparison

7. Cultivating play and rest: letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth

8. Cultivating calm and stillness: letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle

9. Cultivating meaningful work: letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”

10. Cultivating laughter, song, and dance: letting go of being cool and “always in control”

And I would add to this:

Cultivating boundaries of steel: letting go of people pleasing and resentment, and developing compassion.

In my on-going desire to grow and be the best person I can be, again I turn to Rising Strong, and take this list to heart. I strive to cultivate these traits:

  • Boundaries — I create clear boundaries and will respect your boundaries; and when I’m not clear about what’s okay and not okay, I’ll ask. And I’m willing to say no.
  • Reliability — I’ll do what I say I will do. I will be aware of my competencies and limitations so I don’t overpromise and am able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.
  • Accountability — I own my mistakes, apologize, and make amends.
  • Vault — I don’t share information or experiences that are not mine to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that others are not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential.
  • Integrity — I choose courage over comfort. I choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And I choose to practice my values rather than simply profess them.
  • Non-judgment — I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.
  • Generosity — I extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

That’s a potent list, and I know it’s a matter of progress not perfection. I will keep cultivating these traits. And for today, I will choose to be compassionate. And that might mean that I say no, and that might mean that someone is less than pleased with me. And that’s OK.

I’ll Close with that incredible interview between Russel Brand and Brené Brown.  Take time to watch it, it’s really great!

I’d love to hear about how you set and keep boundaries, and does it help you stay more compassionate?

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

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Hi I’m Patti and I’m a Rebel

“I realized that my sobriety isn’t a limitation. Sobriety isn’t even a “have to” – it’s a superpower.”

― Brené Brown

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I heard in a meeting once that getting sober and staying sober is one of the most rebellious things you can do in an addictive society. I like that, I like to think of myself as a rebel, I always have.

 

 

Last week, someone messaged me on my blog site and asked me about my ‘back story.’ Thank you for asking. I really enjoy being around curious people. So I looked back over the past several years of blog writing and I realized I haven’t really talked much about who I am and why I’m here writing. So I decided to take the plunge and give my ‘back story’. It’s rather long, and it feels sort of self-indulgent to write it out. I’ll try to keep it succinct, but I can’t guarantee it. Feel free to jump to the end if you get bored.

Most of the people who know me well, know that I don’t drink, that it’s a choice I made many years ago. Being sober isn’t ALL that I am, but it’s a very important piece of who I am. I made the choice for all the right reasons, but it’s not a straight-forward story.

I grew up in a chaotic home, with an alcoholic mother and father. My mother was the identified alcoholic, because she drank at home and got drunk and looked sloppy. My father looked good, drove a good car, had a good job, and also drank a lot, but functioned well. Both were alcoholics, both hugely impacted my childhood obviously. I remember every holiday had massive amounts of booze, family members drank, got drunk, and there was inevitably someone locked in the bathroom crying. There weren’t huge fights often, although they certainly happened. Mostly the drama was sadness, my mother listening to opera records in the kitchen crying, while the ironing piled up next to the ironing board that was always out. The curtains stayed shut at our house, the house remained in perpetual dimness. That’s my memory.

When I was 12 and my sister was 16, my father decided that he didn’t want to live in that dim house anymore and he took off; it was the day before Christmas Eve. The pain was immense. And it became our secret. My mother made us vow not to tell anyone that he had left, it was too shameful. So my sister and I added another shameful secret to our repertoire. Don’t invite friends home; they might see our mother drunk; they might notice our father gone.

I learned early on that booze numbed the pain and helped deal with the shame. I was about 13 the first time I drank and got drunk. It was pretty inevitable. I drank, I felt cool and rebellious and comfortable in my skin. My memories of high school weekends all involve alcohol, usually of me getting sick and passing out somewhere, wherever we were drinking. Somehow I always made it home, often not remembering how.

Then at 16, my world collapsed. My mother died of alcoholism. I didn’t know how I was supposed to carry on. That period is hazy, I remember drinking a lot and smoking a lot of pot. The pain was too big. I didn’t believe there was any alternative but to numb it out.

Fast forward through high school and college, partying a lot, somehow surviving and graduating. The day after graduating from high school, I moved away for the summer and partied most days. And soon after graduating from college, I left CA to drive across country, staying in campsites across the country, always ending the day with a 6 pack of beer. Eventually I moved up to Juneau, Alaska and became a bartender at The Red Dog Saloon, a kid in a candy shop. There was always plenty of booze and the added elixir of cocaine now became prevalent. It felt fun, dangerous, outrageous and oh so rebellious . . . until it didn’t . . . and then it felt scary and like a trap. I remember thinking to myself, if I continue down this path, I am going to die here, either in a car crash or just burning my body out. I remember so clearly imagining standing at a crossroads and having to make a decision: Stay here and continue this life style or get out. Luckily I had the option, an invitation from Jeff, (my friend then who later became my husband) to go travel. So I packed up and left.

We spent the next 4 years travelling and working around Asia and the South Pacific. When we returned to the US in 1987, I started drinking heavily again. And I got scared. Interestingly, it was an astrologist who confronted me. I went to see an astrologist in Ashland, Oregon where we were living at the time to get my chart done. She pointed to an area in my chart and said: “Looks like a lot of addiction in your system” – and I said yeah, my mother died of alcoholism; and she said, yeah but there’s more here, and I said yeah my father is also an alcoholic and she looked me in the eye and said: “Yeah but this looks personal… Are you an alcoholic?” Boom! I collapsed in her little room and sobbed. Confronted, the shame was aired, the secret was out, I couldn’t hide.

That same day as the reading, Jeff and I were driving to Tucson, AZ for Jeff to finish his BA. We got to Tucson in January 1988. Two days before my 30th birthday, I went to my first AA meeting. I walked into a woman’s meeting and I felt love, acceptance and at home. Grateful beyond measure.

I’d love to say I’ve been sober and happy ever since, but as I said earlier, it’s not that straight-forward. I wanted to stay sober because Jeff didn’t like being around me when I was drunk… fair enough, neither did I. And I was committed to being sober for the children that Jeff and I were planning to have; I was fiercely determined not to be my mother.

In 1989, Jeff and I got married, we had a sober wedding; it was beautiful. In 1992, we moved to New Zealand, Jeff got a job teaching and we decided NZ would be a wonderful place to raise a family. We had our two sons in a small town in NZ on the coast of The Coromandel Peninsula. Life was good, I felt content.

I found a very small AA community in our small town and went to meetings. I do not want in anyway to blame anyone in that community… but I began to feel estranged, I felt like I did not belong. It was so different from my women’s meeting in Tucson. It was mostly old men in the rooms, and most of them did not want to talk about emotional sobriety, or talk about much else besides ‘Just don’t pick up and go to meetings!’ When I did talk about feelings and discomfort and didn’t respond well to ‘Just don’t pick up and go to meetings’ – I felt bullied and quit going to meetings. It was about that time that both boys were in school, and my full time motherhood role was diminished. And the social scene I found myself in often consisted of wine on the deck of one of the mother’s houses, while the kids played outside. The wine was alluring, the scene was cool and I felt like I didn’t belong with the sober people in town.

I was also feeling strongly that I understood my drinking habits, that I understood the underlying causes . . . I had done A LOT of therapy at that point!

So in 2000, after 12 years of sobriety, I decided that I could drink a bit and I’d be fine. I made deals with myself; I could have 2 glasses of wine on the deck with the other mothers, but no more. I could have 2 beers at the pizza party with the other families but not more. I was fastidiously ‘controlling’ my drinking behaviour . . . until I wasn’t. After several years, I was hiding how much I was drinking, making sure no one noticed when I refilled my glass, hiding wine bottles at the bottom of recycling, lying to people about how much I was drinking on a regular basis. I wasn’t drinking every day, I wasn’t getting in trouble, I lied about it being all under control, but mostly I was lying to myself and I knew it.

In 2014, just before my youngest son left for college, I had this thought in my head: “Once the kids are out of the house, I can drink as much as I want to!” and I knew that was really sick thinking, terrifying. I journalled and thought about where I was, who I was and who I wanted to be. I wrote about being My Best Self . . . and realized that that best version of myself did not include alcohol. So on the first of November 2014, I gave up alcohol again, this time, hopefully, for good.

And what I’ve come to realize about my sobriety this time is that I have decided not to drink anymore for ME. Not because I want to be a good mother, although obviously that plays into the decision hugely, I do want to be a good mother to my sons. And my decision to not drink was not made to hang on to my husband, although Jeff has said many times that he likes me a lot more when I’m not drinking. No the decision not to drink came because I want to like me, I want to be proud of me, I want to feel good about myself. I was ready …

And I believe that this is an act of rebellion in this day and age.

Just check out the social media groups: Moms Who Need Wine have over 700K likes; Mommy needs a beer over 990K likes; Women and Wine; Women & Wine; Wine Women – several hundred thousand likes, and Mommy Needs Vodka over 3.5 million likes.

Search online, and you’ll find hundreds of memes that joke about why women need a drink to get through the day or week — whether it’s related to their kids or their job. There’s an endless supply of products around this topic — like wine glasses emblazoned with the words “Mommy’s Little Helper.” A Facebook group called “Moms Who Need Wine” has more than 700,000 members. And #WineWednesday is often a trending topic on Twitter by midweek.

After that rebellious decision to quit drinking, I knew I needed to find like-minded people. I joined quite a few ‘sober communities’ online, but I didn’t want to return to the AA rooms here in my small town. But then a wonderful thing happened; I saw a couple my own age that I recognized from past times in the recovery community here. I approached the woman and asked if she was still in recovery and she said yes. And to make a long story a bit less long, we created our own meeting, focusing on emotional sobriety, free of bullying and open to anyone wanting to deal with any kind of addiction. We follow the tenets of NA, but are open to everyone dealing with any addiction. We are focused on love and openness and community.

I guess I did not ‘come out’ completely before now because I am in a small town and it feels like a big deal to lay it all out there. But what I have found, is that almost every time I talk about my recovery and choosing not to drink, someone asks me more about it, and often people reach out to me for help. And that feels important.  And I guess with all the ‘sober influencers’ now, it feels safer to ‘come out’ – Instagram Hashtags like: #SoberCurious, #SoberLife, #SoberAF, and #SoberIsSexy are becoming common in the social media universe. Celebrities are coming out as sober; people are talking about it as a sane choice in an insane world. My mentors like Brené Brown are celebrating their sobriety publically.

Quotes like this one from Mary Karr are found popping up:

“When I got sober, I thought giving up [alcohol] was saying goodbye to all the fun and all the sparkle, and it turned out to be just the opposite. That’s when the sparkle started for me.”

So I decided to ‘come out’. The Instagram Influencers and celebrities made it a bit less intimidating, but to be honest, I really believe that this lifestyle that I’ve chosen is rebellious as hell! To choose not to drink and use in a society where drinking and using is pushed on us continuously feels like a very rebellious act, and as I said I’m Patti and I’m a Rebel.

 

Self Love During Difficult Times

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. And we need to learn to love ourselves first.”
― John Lennon

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This post was from 2017 – but it was so relevant that I decided to repost it . . .

Self-Love. Why do so many of us find that concept so difficult?  One of the most common things that I hear from women in workshops is that they think the worst of themselves and usually have difficulty prioritizing themselves.

Why is it that some people, the Donald Trumps of the world, seem to believe only the best about themselves, while others—perhaps especially women —seize on the most self-critical thoughts they can come up with? “It turns out there’s an area of your brain that’s assigned the task of negative thinking,” says Louann Brizendine, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, and the author of The Female Brain. “It’s judgmental. It says ‘I’m too fat’ or ‘I’m too old.’ It’s a barometer of every social interaction you have. It goes on red alert when the feedback you’re getting from other people isn’t going well.” This worrywart part of the brain is the anterior cingulate cortex. In women, it’s actually larger and more influential, as is the brain circuitry for observing emotions in others. “The reason we think females have more emotional sensitivity,” says Brizendine, “is that we’ve been built to be immediately responsive to the needs of a nonverbal infant. That can be both a good thing and a bad thing.”

Interesting that this article was from the August 2008 O Magazine. The comparison to the Donald Trumps of the world is more apt than ever! (Although I would like to point out that there is a huge distinction between narcissism and self-love!) And in these dark and difficult times, when there is a constant reminder of how much is at stake, fear is rampant. So self-love is more important than ever.  We need love to conquer the fear that many of us are feeling in response to the political insanity that has gripped the world at the moment.

In an article that I recently published in Thrive Global, I wrote about just this phenomenon – Why Self-Love is So Important During Difficult Times. In this article I quote an important point by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:

There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt. It’s true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it’s more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.”

So if we want to stay in a place of love instead of a place of fear, we have to learn to love ourselves first. We cannot pour from an empty cup, we must be filled up. And one way to fill your cup is to prioritize yourself, pamper yourself!

 

 

So if you have the time and the inclination, may I suggest a lovely retreat to Bali! Rejuvenate Spa Retreats is offering a stunning 9 day retreat in

Bali! You can read all about it here. This is the Third annual Bali Retreat my business partner Deb and I have run.  It is a phenomenal way to refresh and rejuvenate yourself. And a wonderful way to show yourself the self-love your deserve!

I’ll close with a short sweet video of Oprah Winfrey as she talks about self-love and taking care of yourself.

 

 

I’d love to hear how you take care of yourself and practice self-love.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it. And please let me know if you want more information about our retreat to Bali in July!

 

The Power of Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think.” 
— Brené Brown

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Pssst – I want to let you in on a secret . . . I’m terrified!

As I was sitting down to write this article, I thought of a few topics: ‘Gratitude for Thanksgiving’ and ‘Joy for Christmas’ and ‘Happiness for the Holidays’ – but what I was honestly thinking is “What the hell do you have to say that is special Patti? It’s all been said before and you are not adding anything special to this world!” I froze after I sat down and decided I’d just look at Facebook on my phone instead of write . . . which of course made me feel worse – because on FB most people look like they have everything is under control . . .

I started wondering where these insecurities came from. My first thought was my mother, a painfully depressed alcoholic. But to be fair, she loved me and encouraged me when I was young. Then I thought about my dad, a ping pong ball of rage and Peter Pan never grow up energy; but actually much of the time, he encouraged me to be audacious and live big.

Yes, both my parents added to this negative messaging that I still carry, but it is absolutely added to and encouraged by our culture. We are so scared of getting cut down if we stand out, or trolled if we are seen saying much of anything online. Perhaps, as Marianne Williamson so eloquently puts it, my deepest fear is my own power.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

* Please note, that that feels rather cringe-worthy to say that I am afraid of my own power. My head is making serious fun of me at the moment . . . But I persist . . .

I have pursued a career of being vulnerable in front of others. I write blog posts and articles that people can read and comment on; I’ve written a book that is subject to people reviewing and saying mean things about; I put myself out there vulnerably. And it just so happens that a new study suggests that we judge ourselves more harshly than others do when we put ourselves out there, so maybe there is validity in my fear.

Professor and author Brené Brown has studied and written about vulnerability in depth:

“We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we are afraid to let them see it in us,” she writes. “Vulnerability is courage in you and inadequacy in me.”

In a recent Greater Good article, this phenomenon was explored:

“Participants in a study imagined either themselves or someone else in different vulnerable situations: confessing romantic feelings for a best friend, admitting a costly mistake at work, asking for help from a former boss, or baring their imperfect bodies at a swimming pool. Then, they rated how vulnerable the situation was, and how they evaluated that vulnerability—as an act of strength or weakness, something desirable or something to be avoided.”

They describe as Vulnerability being a “beautiful mess.” Indeed vulnerability comes with some risks, we may be laughed at, made fun of and trolled; but there are rewards as well: We may inspire someone and touch someone’s heart, and ultimately find a beautiful sense of belonging. The research suggests that we may be overestimating the risks and underestimating the benefits.

“Showing vulnerability might sometimes feel more like weakness from the inside…[but] to others, these acts might look more like courage from the outside,” the researchers write. “It might, indeed, be beneficial to try to overcome one’s fears and to choose to see the beauty in the mess of vulnerable situations.”

One article suggests 7 benefits of vulnerability:
1. You may learn to appreciate the quirks that make you unique.
Being vulnerable may help you embrace all of you, all the things that make you special.

2. You may make peace with troubling memories from your past.
Being vulnerable may help you get rid of some pent-up baggage that bothers you. While it isn’t easy to deal with painful memories, it is better to confront your past than it is to hide from it.

3. You may attract the right kind of people into your life.
Being vulnerable may help you understand what types of people you can most relate to and which ones to avoid.

4. You may find it easier to empathize with the struggles of others.
Being vulnerable can help you develop empathy for others.

5. You might earn the trust of people at work.
Being vulnerable might help you grow closer to the people in your workplace.

6. You may strengthen your bond with your romantic partner.
Being vulnerable will probably help you bond with the person you love most.

7. You will humanize yourself in the eyes of others.
Being vulnerable will help you demonstrate that you are an approachable person. While it isn’t easy to find the courage to reveal our true nature, there is no better way be seen as human and open.

So as I sit down to write this article and hope that no one rolls their eyes at me and tells me that the world would be a better place if I would just shut up, I remind myself of Brené Brown’s words:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

To close, I want to share a great video of Brené Brown – The Power of Vulnerability. It’s well worth the watch if you haven’t seen it yet. And worth a re-watch if you’ve already seen it.

I’d love to hear about how you embrace vulnerability in your life.
And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

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.

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!

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.

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.

Dealing with A Crisis of the Heart and Finding Well-Being

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

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What can we do when loneliness, anxiety and depression take hold. We can hold on to hope.
I explored the Crisis of the Heart that is overtaking so many of us in my latest article on Thrive Global.

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..”

The numbers of people suffering are staggering. In the United States, depression affects 16.2 million adults, and anxiety about 18.7 million. In New Zealand, it is estimated that one in five women suffers from depression, and about one in 10 men; with about one in six people suffering from anxiety.

Gazzaley describes a sharp increase in the number of teens impacted. American teens have experienced a 33% increase in depressive symptoms, with 31% more having died by suicide between 2010 and 2015. And in New Zealand, the percentage of 15- to 24-year-olds struggling with mental health has been steadily increasing, affecting

11.8 per cent in the past year. The estimated number of youth in NZ experiencing psychological distress has gone up from 58,000 to 79,000 in the past year. And tragically, NZ has the highest youth suicide rate among teenagers between 15 and 19 in the OECD.

What is causing this horrific increase, this crisis spiralling out of control? Grazzaley and many others argue that we just cannot keep up with the rapid rise of technology and it is impacting our brains and our well-being.

“Our brains simply have not kept pace with the dramatic and rapid changes in our environment — specifically the introduction and ubiquity of information technology.”

But it’s not only our brains that are impacted; it’s also affecting our emotions and our hearts. Jack Kornfield describes this crisis as:

Our Crisis of Heart.

“No marvellous technological developments alone  will stop continuing warfare, racism, environmental destruction, and global injustice. The source of these sufferings is in the human heart. Actions based on greed, hatred, disrespect, and ignorance inevitably lead to suffering.”

Gazzaley echoes this sentiment as he notes 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. So how do we get a handle on it, how do we deal with a crisis of the heart? Kornfield asks us to reengage the heart.

If actions based on greed, hatred, disrespect and ignorance lead to suffering, then it makes sense that actions based on their opposites — generosity, love, respect, and wisdom — lead to happiness and well-being.

Numerous studies have shown that there are ways to increase joy, compassion, peace, and gratitude. The benefits of mindfulness and compassion are well researched. The work of Richard Davidson, professor of psychology, is especially interesting. Davidson’s work at Center for Healthy Minds at UW Madison has shown that positive emotions such as loving kindness and compassion can be learned. This is great news; these positive emotions can be learned and nurtured to grow.

But the rapid rise of technology continues, and even as we work to hold on to the positive emotions that we are nurturing, the disconnect that Gazzaley described looms.

But there is hope. Kornfield is working with others to bring principles of heart and compassion into the field of technological development:

“Together with technology leaders, neuroscientists, and contemplatives, I have helped co-found something called the Open Source Compassion to bring principles of heart and compassion into all levels of technological development. We acknowledge that the capacities of modern technology are among the most potent of human creations. We are collaborating with companies and institutions around the world and beginning to formulate a kind of Hippocratic Oath for tech, which reads:

· We will not create technology that causes harm to humans and to life.
· If later we learn that it inadvertently does so, we will change it.
· We will strive to create technology that fosters human well-being and respect.
· We can create technology for profit, but not if it contravenes the first three principles.
· Working at all levels, we will act with professionalism and take these responsibilities as paramount.

Ultimately we must have hope; hope that there can be positive change and that love will prevail. Kornfield implores us:

Let these words be a reminder, a call.

Find your way to quiet yourself and tend your heart.

Promote love and spread the power of compassion in your work and in your community.

Have hope.

I’ll close with a wonderful video of Jack Kornfield entitled: ‘Wisdom, Compassion and Courage in Uncertain Times

I’d love to hear about how you deal with a crisis of the heart.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.

Overcoming the Trance of Unworthiness

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
– Jack Kornfield.”

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There is a trance that is overtaking many of us these days. It seems to be present in most women I talk to. It is the Trance of Unworthiness. We seem to be champions at berating ourselves for our perceived failures – for not being good enough at our jobs or at parenting, for not exercising enough or for eating too much. We have convinced ourselves that we are unworthy of the kindness that we show most other people. And that unkindness and self-criticism is making us sick!

Research shows that accepting our imperfections and being kinder to ourselves can lessen feelings of depression and anxiety, and can also lessen feelings of shame and fear of failure.

People who have greater self-compassion also tend to be happier and more optimistic.
Quieting the nagging self-critic and practicing self-compassion can lead to a healthier immune system and a much better sense of well-being.

Psychologist Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as kindness toward the self, which entails being gentle and supportive. “Rather than harshly judging oneself for personal shortcomings, the self is offered warmth and unconditional acceptance.”

But after years of relentless negative self-talk, how can we break out of this trance of unworthiness? How can we cultivate more self-compassion?

It needs to be intentional – set the intention daily to be kinder to yourself.

Here are some guidelines:

1. Practice Imperfection:

Self-compassion means that we give ourselves the space to be human. And that means we can be flawed sometimes, but we don’t have to define ourselves as being ‘completely flawed and a hopeless case.’ We get to practice imperfection sometimes and not lose sight of our own potential.

2. Practice Mindfulness:

Jon Kabat-Zinn explains that mindfulness has been found to have a positive impact on self-compassion because it has the tendency to lessen self-judgement. When we are stuck in a negative spiral of self-criticism, it’s quite often because we are engaged in ‘negative story-lines’ —stories that we repeat in our heads, criticizing self about past mistakes and failures. This playground of our internal critic, plays on repeat and creates a negative spiral that we can easily get stuck in. Mindfulness, or the state of non-judgmental awareness, can be the antidote.

3. Practice Forgiveness

Refer back to number one, being human means that you sometimes make mistakes. Shit happens. We don’t have to punish ourselves for making mistakes. We get to accept that we’re not perfect and move on. Remember what Anne Lamott says:
“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
That goes for self-forgiveness as well.

4. Practice Gratitude

By focussing on gratitude, we over-ride our inner critic and can hear a kinder voice in our head. We can then shift the lazar-focus away from all of our perceived shortcomings and instead appreciate what we can contribute to the world. Robert Emmons reminds us that gratitude is powerful and by focusing on gratitude instead of criticism, we can learn to be more self-compassionate.

Remember self-compassion has to be learned for most of us. I have to remember to practice it daily. It has to be intentional and mindful. But it can be done, and I’ve decided that I’m worth it. And I think you are too.

I’d like to close with a beautiful meditation called ‘Awakening Self-Compassion’ by Tara Brach.
She also has a two part meditation on her own site called “The Healing Power of Self-Compassion” which is also wonderful when you have the time.

I’d love to hear about how you manage to overcome the Trance of Unworthiness.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.