Nothing lasts forever, but doesn’t it seem like a bad joke that the tough times seem to stretch on and the good times go by in a blink? There are many reasons for this; some can be worked with to create different results. One reason we experience things this way has to do with our ability to disengage from the tough times and have deeper contact with the good ones.
This might sound strange. Why would we have a hard time connecting to good experiences? However, it is true. We can be challenged in letting go of negativity and connecting in with positive experiences.
It is common in personal development workshops to have people sit with their eyes closed, do some deep breathing, and then do something like taste a piece of chocolate or a raisin. In this exercise, participants allow themselves a long time to do something that they might otherwise have done in just a few seconds.
It is a great way to get in touch with the lost potential of each moment as well as to help open up the senses.
Similarly, in our day-to-day lives, we might stop paying attention when “everything is fine” or “things are running smoothly.” We might gloss over the days where things go according to how we planned them and fixate on the bad traffic one night, the mistake made by a coworker that caused us to work late, or the moodiness of our child.
We might do things like tell the story of these tales of woe over and over again—or at the very least, run over them again in our heads. We might spend a lot of time thinking about how to fix them—in some cases, necessarily so. However, do we put equal attention and energy into the things that work, the people who are showing up in a good way, the parts of life that are waiting to be savored?
Here are some reminders that will help you get the most out of your day-to-day life.
Rebalancing: Often, we are just looking in the wrong direction or giving too much weight to the bleaker side of things. We can rebalance our perspective on life with the following tools.
Lean a bit in the other direction. If you talk (to yourself or others) about the negative stuff, try adding something positive to the conversation. If you are looking at what is not working, look at what is working. Conversely, if you gloss over the more challenging stuff, make a point of giving that its time as well. This cultivates flexibility in perspective and helps us recognize the choice we have in the way that we perceive or focus our attention. Ultimately, we can choose to look at things in a way that provides us with what we are looking for in life.
Put things in perspective. Just because something is wrong in one moment does not mean it has been and always will be for all time. If someone acts like a jerk—maybe they usually don’t, or maybe most people usually don’t. If you find yourself getting caught up in one aspect of the present moment, sink in a little more deeply and see what else is there.
Appreciation Skills: Appreciating the varied experiences of life is part of what makes life rich and prevents us from resisting whatever is coming to us in the present moment.
Look at what you have gained from a difficulty. After a difficulty has passed, it is easier to see how it was helpful overall to your life. After we have done that for a while, we can begin to appreciate our challenges more, even in the moment. We can know that the hard times, sometimes even more than the good times, offer us some amazing gifts. This decreases our resistance and fear and helps us become more connected with what is.
Keep your focus. In any given moment, there are many different ways that we can direct our attention. When we learn to align and realign with what is in our highest and best interest, then we are able to steer clear of much of what might send us off on emotional or mental tangents that have little to do with what is happening in the present moment.
Send love to those who have made your life difficult. If you want to be a ninja of peace, send love to the people with whom you are struggling in the present moment. This frees you from engaging with them and does so in a way that keeps you away from more stories in your head, mental chatter, or rumination.
Appreciating your life is first about being connected more deeply to it and then learning how to cultivate the states that bring you the most joy and pleasure. To do this, we need to stay away from some common bad habits (such as overthinking), learn to be honest with ourselves, and find authentic ways to connect with what we want.
Appreciation is one key to a happier life. Learn about another – that of presence – in my article here: >>> “Developing Presence in Your Day to Day.”
Stop trying to be perfect: You already are. Yes, each one of us is a work in progress, but that work is perfect in its state of evolution. When you are driven by perfection, you are unable to appreciate who you already are. Try instead to look at what is right about you.
Stop Trying to Impress Others: The people who want to be impressed (in the way I am talking about here) are not worth your time. The people who will judge you without knowing you or based on some criteria that are not even important to you are just not your people. The people who matter will think you are amazing. Pay more attention to them.
Stop Trying to Be Someone Else: If you are comparing yourself to someone who has different talents than you do or if you think that you should be doing things a different way than is natural for you, instead start to appreciate how you do things and what your talents are.
Find What You Love: When you let yourself be yourself, you will naturally be drawn to what you love. But, what you love also shows you something about who you are. If you don’t know what you love, experiment. If you like it, try doing it again and see if it grows into something.
Give Yourself Permission to Do What You Love: Once you find the things you love, do them a lot. The more that you do what you love, the happier and the more satisfied you will be with your life. If you know what you love but you are not doing it, get the support you need to give yourself permission to be happy.
Don’t Waste Time Doing Other Things: Why bother doing things that you do not enjoy? Yes, I understand life has some practicalities that need to be addressed, but once they have been attended to—are you still wasting time not doing what you love? If so, start a plan to cut out the things that are not in line with who you want to be or what you love, and then take action.
Slow Down: We can all get a bit ahead of ourselves. It is not about doing more or doing it faster, it is about really enjoying our life. We can’t do that if we are moving so fast that we don’t even know what is happening. Start by building some real breaks into your schedule.
Pay Attention to What Is Working (Most of the Time): Most of us would benefit from being a bit more positive. There is a place for looking at what is not working, but when we pay attention to what works, we often learn more about it and therefore can have more of it. We also feel better about what we are experiencing. If you see yourself getting negative, find one thing that is working.
Express Gratitude: Being grateful is one of the most effective ways to be happier. When in doubt, find something to appreciate. And don’t forget to apply it to yourself!
Learn to Fully Receive: The emphasis on doing that most of us have been enculturated into leaves us less skilled when it comes to receiving. But how can we have a full and rich life if we can’t receive it? The next time someone compliments you, take it in.
Ready for an even more fulfilling life? See my article here to learn about living in your truth >>> “7 Signs You Are Living Your Truth.”
One of the main issues that people face in their personal and spiritual development is in the cultivation of presence. Many people get so preoccupied with fixing what is wrong with themselves or healing the past that they forget the reason for doing all of this work: to learn how to be in love with their life each day.
Sometimes, we do not need to fix the past so much as we need to learn new ways of being with the present so that we can have more of what we want. In short, the solution isn’t in changing the past but in being more adept at each and every moment. We do this by learning to be more present.
Here are three steps to cultivating presence.
Slow Down: As soon as we slow ourselves down, we witness the chaos that drove us in each moment. This can be our chattering mind or our compulsive drive to keep busy. At first we are uncomfortable, but once we break through, we have access to a type of experience we did not have before. Slowing down creates an environment for cultivating presence.
Pay Attention: As we begin to pay attention to what is happening in the present moment—our distraction, how we are feeling, or something someone said—we begin to see what is really going on with us. Paying attention brings things into conscious awareness, which allows us to work with them.
Acknowledge Where You Are Giving Your Energy: We slow down so that we can create the space to pay attention. We pay attention so that we can see what we are giving our energy to that is detracting from what is now present. Then when we get caught up in something that we do not want to give our energy to, we can reapply our attention by acknowledging that we are doing so.
These three steps make us more aware. It is from this place of awareness that we can be more fully in the present moment and can choose how we want to proceed from this point—direct our energy or be more receptive. We learn what keeps us away from being with the present moment and we can make new choices about how we want to connect, create more joy, or take our next steps.
Cultivating presence can lead to more fulfillment – read more about this important topic here: >>> “10 Ways to Live More Fully.”
As we move through the bumps, jolts, and obstacles of life, we can use them to justify our own “rightness” or choose to see through the eyes of compassion. When seen most clearly, any person who hurts us is merely a person who is suffering himself or herself.
When we choose to see others in this way, it opens up a door to a more expanded way of being. This does not mean that we should put ourselves in harm’s way or simply accept harmful behavior. That would be a cop-out—a way to bypass our own responsibility. It is a way that we can get trapped in a kind of pseudo-compassion. This false compassion is a trick of our ego and a way to feel important through our own victimhood.
Instead, we can make choices that both offer others compassion and takes care of ourselves. Compassion requires that we be able to stand in another’s place and understand where they are coming from. It asks that we feel another’s motives and empathize with their plight. Respect and love for ourselves and others helps us put boundaries in place, say no, or simply remove ourselves from harmful situations.
Both compassionate understanding and self-care are essential.
Goddesses, such as Quan Yin, Yemanja, and Mary, show us the way to unconditional compassion for others. They overflow with deep acceptance of the natural evolution of the soul—marked at times by oversights, limitations, and ignorance. They know that no one escapes these challenges and that each one is doing the best they can at any given moment. In their strength and with compassionate grace, they show us how to emanate light in the face of all of life’s challenges. They do not exalt or negate suffering—they simply offer it compassion.
Compassion toward another is, in the end, a gift to us. It releases us from the shackles of judgment. It creates the space for us to learn and grow. It sets us free to live and love more deeply.
We may look around our lives or the world and see many things that are wrong—politicians who are power-hungry, friends who are self-absorbed, or family members who are stuck in limiting belief systems. These clear problems may invoke in us frustration, judgment, or even deep sadness. To protect ourselves, we may feel the need to make these people bad in some way.
We might believe that they are harmful, lost, or just wrong. We might feel that, if they continue to act in this way, it will be infringing upon our ability to be ourselves or have the kind of life that we desire. But what if, instead of blocking our path, they are signs pointing the way? Do not go that way—that is not your way. What if, instead of negating our way of being, they are helping us see how to be with all aspects of ourselves and of life? What if they are deepening our ability to trust in the divine unfolding of things and more completely challenging our ego’s limited grasp of how things should be? Our compassion can be our teacher, showing us the way to deeper truth and happiness.
As with many things, the first person who needs compassion from us is usually ourselves. Many of us, especially those on a spiritual path, can forget to develop ourselves in our striving, forget that we are in a perfectly timed process of unfolding and that our mistakes and limitations are part of the process not keeping us from it. Cultivating compassion as a ground for our spiritual development ensures that we are approaching it from the healthiest and most beneficial direction—with honor and integrity rather than an egoic need to be something other than who we are at any given moment.
My prayer is that compassion lives in your heart, that you remember to be compassionate when you have forgotten, and that you have the strength to feel compassion when it is most challenging. I ask that you feel compassion’s gifts and be open to its teachings. I ask that your life be inspired by divine compassionate grace.
Are you on a journey of compassion? Read more on this topic here >>> “Be More Compassionate: Love Yourself and Change the World.”
Wondering if you are living in your truth? Use these signs to help you see the way.
You are Happy. Not just happy because things are going your way, but really, deeply happy regardless of how things are going. When we are aligned with our inner truth, we feel happy.
You Feel Congruent. When you are living your truth, your insides and your outsides match. You feel you are with the right people doing the right things most of the time.
You Have Lots of Energy. An abundance of energy is the result of being in our truth. Even if facing a serious illness, people aligned with their truth have more energy and are more vivacious than those who might be facing something similar without such alignment.
You Feel Inspired. Being connected with your inner truth leaves you feeling inspired. When you are connected with your inner truth you feel creative and naturally want to contribute to the world around you.
You Feel Confident. There is nothing as good for your confidence as being connected to your truth. When you are connected to your truth, you trust in what is right for you, you know what you know and what you don’t, and you feel comfortable right where you are.
Life is Informative. When you are connected to your truth, life is not a series of challenges to get past but rather a series of events to help you unfold even more. Being in your truth helps you see the informative nature of all things.
You Can Be Generous. When you are in your truth, you naturally have overflow. Being in your truth means not being in all the things that block your truth. As a result, you have an abundance of resources that you can be generous with.
Ready to sink more into living your truth? See my blog post >>> “Uncovering Your Souls True Voice.”
One of the most direct ways to create a better life and a better world is to cultivate compassion. Compassion directed inward connects us with our truth and leaves us loving ourselves. Compassion directed outward decreases disagreements and misunderstandings.
When we judge and condemn aspects of ourselves (and aspects of others), we can find ourselves in inner discomfort or creating discomfort in those around us. When we are able to bring compassion into each situation, we deepen our love of ourselves and have a more positive effect on the world.
Compassion is the ability to understand the experience of another person or even an aspect of ourselves. Our compassion sees the other and acknowledges the experience as real and valid. It does not judge or look for who is to blame, but simply honors what is. A compassionate response sees beyond the story lines and the polarities to the deeper truth of the matter.
Many of our problems (both interior and exterior) can be solved by offering compassion. When we offer compassion to ourselves, we honor our experience and acknowledge our truth.
Compassion toward ourselves stops us from getting caught in the trap of self-criticism and the potential self-negating actions that follow. This does not mean we do not hold ourselves accountable—just that we offer understanding and care with our accountability. Compassion toward others offers them the same gifts.
Compassion is so powerful because it offers the following:
Compassion acknowledges. A compassionate approach is one that sees another where he or she is, how he or she feels, without the need to overlay wisdom, platitudes, or judgments.
Compassion honors. Compassion comes with deep respect for another’s truth, regardless of what that truth is. A compassionate person does not need to prove that an alternative way of being or viewing things is important or necessary.
Compassion does not blame. Compassion does not need to point fingers or assess responsibility. A compassionate person can see all sides of the situation and understand that all have a place and a right to exist.
Compassion is most often cultivated through being misunderstood or mistreated ourselves. This pain has the potential to wake us up to a deeper reality. After we have stood on more than one side of a disagreement, it is more challenging to maintain the “someone is right/someone is wrong” perspective.
We can actively cultivate our own compassion by choosing to see all sides of issues as they arise. We are not so much waiting for life to crack us open but rather using each moment to expand our own awareness. We put ourselves in another person’s shoes as a moment-to-moment practice of our life.
This gift of compassion makes way for our growth as well as the growth of those around us and works to heal the challenges we face rather than contributing to them, all of which aids in the creation of an environment ripe for self-love and offering healing to the world.
Being self-compassionate is also a key to living your truth. Read more at >>> “Uncovering Your Souls True Voice.”
As life pushes us in the direction of truly knowing who we are, both the moments of challenge and the moments of grace provide us with insight into our deeper nature. The question is not about where to look for these opportunities, but how to listen to life so that we can make the most out of them.
At one point or another in our lives, many of us feel the call to realize who we are at a deep level. This is sometimes a pull from within that starts when we are relatively young, or it may be a challenging life event that pushes us to seek out more, or a certain age that we reach that reminds us of how little time we actually have. No matter how it comes, the desire to know our soul’s true voice breaks through.
I have found that many people get confused on this journey. They wonder if they are really hearing their inner truth or whether they are caught in yet another layer of delusion. The transition to this deeper connection with the self requires new skills and new levels of discernment; without these things, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and lost.
The following are tools that help uncover and strengthen the true voice of your soul.
Acceptance. What we resist persists. This means that if we want to open deeper parts of ourselves, we need to start by accepting who we are right at this moment—all of it. When we can provide ourselves with that unconditional acceptance, we set the ground for our soul to unfold.
Forgiveness. Forgiveness creates space for new parts of ourselves to come forward and for old parts of ourselves to leave with grace. The negativity that we hold distorts the face of our true self. When we forgive ourselves and others, we let go and let truth appear.
Compassion. A partner if not a parent of acceptance, compassion allows us to meet all aspects of ourselves and hold them lovingly. When we have compassion, we are less likely to judge and condemn. This helps us release all that does not serve us rather than trading one limitation for the next.
Respect. Fostering an environment of respect for both ourselves and others allows us to see the beauty in them and in us. Respecting another says, “I see you and I honor and acknowledge who you are.” Respect for ourselves does the same.
Generosity. Generosity is the natural byproduct of a fully expressed soul. The more expressed we are, the more able we are to be generous in all the ways listed above and more. The generosity we express is not about getting something in return, but about the overflow of the soul’s true voice.
Learn more about empowering your true voice in my post here >>> “A Secret Key to Your Personal Empowerment.”
There are events in which we lose something we never thought we’d lose: our perspective, our health, a loved one. These life-altering events can leave us reeling. In these moments it can seem that the world is an unfair place and we are at its mercy. Or perhaps we fail to judge the fairness of our situation and simply grieve that it’s happening.
In these moments we often grasp at what’s familiar. We try to negotiate a way to have and to hold what we previously held so dear. We fight, we deny, and we pretend that things have not changed. Yet, we can not un-know what we know – things are no longer the same.
These are the least peaceful times in our lives. This is when what we want to be and what is are at odds.
In his very powerful essay, David Whyte describes anger as our response to seeing something we held dear destroyed. This can be an idea, a relationship, or a state of being. Our anger states: “I have loved this and I’m not ready to let it go. I’m not ready to accept its fate. I’m not willing to accept my fate.”
When we approach the gravesite of what we once held dear, we are fraught with anguish. We want justice. We want to hold someone accountable. While others might be involved, they will never hold enough responsibility for the situation to appease our need for retribution.
We can keep fighting or we can be humbled by our humanity, by our intrinsic vulnerability.
We can find within ourselves a bravery that allows us to accept the ebb and flow of life. This kind of bravery sources its sense of peace from the practice of acceptance and not protection.
Protection is a strong and peculiar habit. We believe that we protect ourselves by cloaking our vulnerability and disappointment with anger, sadness, or avoidance. We convince ourselves that donning an outer armor is the only way that we can survive the inevitable heartache that comes with loss. But a shield expects an onslaught. Our protective gestures create the environment for a continual fight.
Conversely, acceptance is the fabric of a durable, permeable peace. It permits us to open to life, to allow for its expansion and contraction. It enfranchises us to give a rightful place to our anger and need to hold only as long as serves us. Most important, acceptance allows us to be remade again and again in the fire of what we believe we cannot bear. And this is where we find our peace.
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